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Run for cover: undertakings and the benefit of PII

The courts take a serious view of undertakings, so small errors can lead to huge consequences, says John de Waal QC

16 June 2014

Claims for compensation by disgruntled clients are an occupational hazard of professional life. Claims arising out of undertakings that have not been performed are less frequent but can
raise difficult issues for private client solicitors and their insurers.

There are two preliminary points
of particular importance. The first is that when giving an undertaking, a solicitor assumes liability to a third party, and sometimes liability for what a third party is or is not going to do. This is a rare exception to the principle that solicitors are not generally liable to third parties.

The second is that liability for breach of undertakings is strict: the ‘fault’ is to be found in failing to comply with the undertaking; doing your best to comply is not a defence.

The SRA handbook glossary ...

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