Harrington Scott Ltd v Coupe Bradbury Solicitors Ltd

Rebecca Page and Emily Gailey, instructed by RPC, successfully struck out a multi-million-pound professional negligence claim against the claimant’s former solicitors after a substantial 5-day summary judgment / strike out hearing: Harrington Scott Ltd v Coupe Bradbury Solicitors Ltd [2022] EWHC 2275 (Ch). The judgment can be found here.

A company involved in the executive search industry (‘Claimant’) engaged a firm of solicitors (‘Solicitors’) in 2013 to pursue claims for breach of contract against an international mining group (‘Underlying Claims’). Permission was given to serve the Underlying Claims out of the jurisdiction. However, that permission (and service) were set aside on an application by the defendants in those proceedings.

In 2019, the Claimant brought proceedings alleging that it had lost the value of the Underlying Claims as a result of the Solicitors’ negligence, seeking damages close to £7 million. The Solicitors applied for summary judgment on, and/or to strike out, the claim (as well as a number of overlapping parts of the claim), on a range of bases.

HHJ Hodge KC (sitting as a Judge of the High Court) gave summary judgment on and struck out the whole of the action. The court found, among other things, that:

  • The professional negligence claims had no real prospects of success, because the Underlying Claims had been flawed for various reasons (including particularly on matters of contractual construction) such that there was no loss. It was found that some of the claims advanced by the Claimant were so fanciful that it must have appreciated this.
  • Unusually, this was a case in which it was found possible to hold on a summary basis that the claims had been exaggerated and the evidence of the Claimant’s director dishonest in certain respects. The judge described it as:

one of those very rare cases where it is possible for the court to discount any other explanation on the papers, and without cross-examination of [the Claimant’s director], because deliberate, and dishonest, exaggeration is the only explanation which is reconcilable with the reliable contemporary documentary evidence’.

Indemnity costs were awarded against the Claimant and permission to appeal refused by HHJ Hodge KC at a hearing on 12 January 2023.

Thomas Grant KC and Edward Armitage were also instructed by RPC on behalf of the Solicitors during the course of the case.