Don’t help out the neighbours! (conclusion)

Court of Appeal upholding the Technology and Construction Court’s decision

You might not expect a court action as a result of helping a friend…

Part one dealt with the Court of Appeal upholding the Technology and Construction Court’s decision in the case of Lejonvarn v Burgess and another [2017] EWCA Civ 254, with a resulting maximum claim value of £265,000.

Don’t help out the neighbours! (Part one) »

Alexander Nissen QC sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge in the TCC was asked to decide 5 preliminary points. Some turn on their facts but the ones that have aroused most interest was the finding that

“a duty of care extends to the protection against economic loss in respect of both advice and any service in which a special skill is exercised by a professional”

(paragraph 174, judgment) and that this duty of care arose outside of any contractual agreement (the judge held that there was no contract between Ms Lejonvarn and the Burgesses) and regardless of the fact that the advice and services had been given gratuitously.

How many of us have not done “favours” for our friends and either given or been asked for advice in our various fields of expertise without expecting or receiving payment?  We probably wouldn’t have been expecting a court action to follow either.

However, the court emphasised that “this was not a piece of brief ad hoc advice of the type occasionally proffered by professional people in a less formal context”. 

Rather it was clearly a significant project approached (if not executed) in a professional way, with services provided over a relatively long period and involving considerable commitment. In addition, the professional consultant had hoped to receive payment for services that might be necessary later in the project.

A warning to all professionals

The case is a warning to all professionals of the standard of care society now expects and the law will enforce even when that relationship is between so called friends, done as a favour and without receiving payment.

You can still give friends some informal advice now and again, but have a care as to how far you go mixing work and friendship and giving advice in a professional capacity.