Being a party to litigation can be stressful. This is so
whether you're the claimant or the defender. It would be
impossible to expect that either party would exit the process
feeling that it had been completely stress-free. In a recent
High Court case the question came under scrutiny.
In Guney v Kingsley Napley  EWHC 2349 (QB) the
claimants were suing their former solicitors for professional
negligence. Kingsley Napley had acted for the family of the
late millionaire businessman Ramadan Guney. They had faced a claim
for financial provision brought by his former partner and their
child. The claimants alleged that, had they been properly
advised, they would have settled the claim much earlier, saving
themselves from increased costs.
Prior to the trial, Kingsley Napley sought to have a number of
heads of loss struck out. One was a claim for "general
damages for inconvenience and stress". The
claimants' contention was that this loss arose from the
defendants' breach of contract. They did not contend that
they were attempting to construct a personal injury claim.
Kingsley Napley argued that damages for inconvenience and stress
were irrecoverable. Stress and inconvenience was, they submitted,
an inherent feature of litigation. It was not caused by the
defendants or their conduct of the litigation.
The court agreed. Mrs Justice McGowan held that such general
damages are irrecoverable:
"This was not a contract for the provision of a holiday, a
pleasurable activity or peace of mind. This was a contract to act
in relation to a family dispute over inheritance matters. It was
too remote to say that solicitors conducting litigation assume
liability for the stresses that that imposes on the litigants
involved. It is difficult to imagine what would happen to
litigation if there was such a general duty."
The decision is a welcome (though unsurprising) relief for all
professionals who conduct litigation. As Mrs Justice McGowan
implied, if a professional were to be found liable for the stresses
involved in litigation it is difficult to see any firm accepting
If a client can sue their solicitor for the stressful nature of
litigation then what's next? Take the example of a
surgeon who is to perform a complex operation on a patient.
One would expect the patient to be nervous or stressed about this
operation, but it would be absurd to find the surgeon liable for
By its very nature, litigation is stressful. A solicitor
should remove as much stress as possible from their client, but
they cannot protect them from it all. And in any event there
may be clients who cause their solicitor inconvenience and
distress. Imagine the furore if the solicitor could sue
The UK Supreme Court last week issued the latest decision in a long-running attempt to enforce a US$150 million Nigerian arbitration award (IPCO (Nigeria) Limited v. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation...
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