Nieman v Withers LLP [2022] EWHC 2237 (QB)

Published: 19/07/2022 09:00

Andrew Baker J. H brought a claim against Withers LLP on the ground that Withers had provided him with negligent advice in the context of his divorce, and that the terms agreed with W by way of financial settlement following their divorce were not as good as they should have been. Alternatively, he claimed negligence as he lost a real and substantial prospect of securing terms that were better for him. Consequently, he sought damages representing the difference in value between the sums he had agreed and the better terms that, he asserted, could have secured. Withers counterclaimed for unpaid fees pursuant to their retainer.

H claimed that his lawyer had failed to advise him on the distinction between matrimonial and non-matrimonial property, which caused him to agree a settlement that was unfair. H did not instruct Withers on a wholesale basis, but he obtained advice from them in the background. He also chose to carry out many of the negotiations with W to keep his legal costs down. There were many discussions between H and W and the contents of these discussions were not always relayed fully to his solicitors.

Held, H negligence claim failed, and the counterclaim was successful. H was unclear as to how he would have proceeded differently had he received alternative legal advice. The judge concluded that H was ‘not a reliable historian of the material events’; [119]. H was also found to have achieved a good settlement, by receiving more than 60% of the assets despite this being a long marriage and there could have been a 50:50 division.

Class Legal

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