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Cave -v- Robinson Jarvis & Rolf (a Firm) [2003] 1 AC 384 - [2002] UKHL 18

Robinson, a firm of solicitors, were instructed in connection with a sale of land and were specifically retained to draw up legal documentation to enable Mr Cave to enjoy mooring rights for 100 years. The sale went ahead in March 1989 and Mr Cave enjoyed mooring rights for several years until he was denied by the receivers of the purchasing company in February 1994. Proceedings were not issued against Robinson until January 1998. Robinson appealed on the basis that the claim was out of time, but Cave responded that the solicitor had not told him of the circumstances which would lead to the claim, and that deliberate concealment should extend the limitation period. At first instance and in the Court of Appeal, the decision in Brocklesby was followed. The House of Lords was unanimous, in allowing the solicitors’ appeal and overturned the judgments of the lower courts. Lord Millet stated that “A man cannot sensibly be said either to conceal or fail to disclose something of which he is ignorant”. A person should not be considered to be dishonest for the purposes of the new provisions unless the person concealing the fact is aware of what is being concealed and does not wish the claimant to discover it. -

Haward and others -v- Fawcetts (A Firm) and others [2006] UKHL 9

In October 1994, a partner in Fawcetts, a firm of accountants, gave professional advice to Mr Haward regarding the proposed acquisition by Mr Haward of a company, Kings Stag Engineering Ltd. On 9 December 1994, in reliance on the advice of Fawcetts, W. J. Haward Ltd, subscribed for the controlling interest of Kings Stag. In addition a Haward family Trust acquired the freehold of the leasehold premises from which the Kings Stag carried on business. Fawcetts were appointed auditors to Kings Stag, then called Haward Architecture Ltd. It was known that an injection of money into the company was needed, but substantial investment failed to bring the company to profitability. In 1998 Mr Haward asked a specialist in corporate rescues to look into the matter of the company's ever-mounting losses. This led eventually to a claim for damages for professional negligence being made against Fawcetts. Proceedings were commenced on 6 December 2001. The claim was both in contract and in tort. Fawcetts' defence denied negligence and also raised the defence that the claims based on breaches of contract, and tortious claims for losses accruing prior to 6 December 1995 were both statute barred. The case went to the House of Lords and it was held that the relevant date was not when the claimant first knew he might have a claim for damages, but an earlier date when he first knew enough to justify starting to investigate the possibility that the defendant’s advice was defective -

Law Society -v- Sephton & Co (a Firm) and Others - [2006] UKHL 22

Prior to 1996 Sephton had been the accountants to a firm of solicitors. The solicitors had a member involved in a substantial fraud. Many calls were later made upon the compensation fund operated by the Law Society, who sought recovery in turn from Sephton. The accountants pleaded limitation in the court of first instance, which was upheld. The Court of Appeal overturned this ruling and the case went to the House of Lords. Held: The Law Society faced a contingent liability on the fund, but that was insufficient to start the limitation period. Damage was an essential part of a claim for negligence, and the damages were not suffered until the Society received a claim. A cause of action in tort did not accrue in the Law Society's favour against Sephtons until the Law Society first received a claim on the Compensation Fund from a client whose money had been misappropriated. The limitation period began at that point. -