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Lady Hale's former husband settles negligence claim for £2.6m

11 January 2011

Lady Hale’s former husband, retired barrister John Hoggett QC, has settled a long-running negligence claim for £2.6m, it has emerged.

Hoggett, based at Kings Chambers in Manchester, retired in 2006, but the Technology and Construction Court heard that the claim against him by D Morgan plc was recently settled without admission of liability.

The details formed part of Mr Justice Coulson’s ruling in a £40m claim brought by the construction firm against solicitors Mace & Jones.

Giving judgment in D Morgan plc v Mace & Jones [2010] EWHC 3375 (TCC), Coulson J described the majority of that claim, which was for loss of profits, as “fundamentally flawed”.

He concluded that even if damages were due from Mace & Jones, the total sum would not exceed the £2m, excluding costs, already recovered from John Hoggett.

The court heard allegations that Mace & Jones had failed to sort out difficulties created by a planning permission for quarrying granted as long ago as 1990, when the claimant was “more interested in using the void created” for rubbish tipping and landfill.

D Morgan also alleged that Mace & Jones failed to give advice which would have led them to make a fresh planning application earlier than they did.

However, Coulson J said “this large claim was only ever pleaded in outline for years and years, and was not the subject of a comprehensible formulation until recently, when the detail – such as it was – was only provided following an unless order and a good deal of other cajoling from the court.

“In such circumstances, it is not appropriate for a claimant to say to the court: ‘Well, our huge and very late claim has turned out to be fundamentally flawed, but there must have been some loss somewhere and you must do your best with what we have chosen to give you’.”

Coulson J said that there was a lack of evidence on the need for a huge landfill site restricted to ‘inert waste’ and “there was nothing on which even the basic

assertion that there must somehow have been some sort of a loss of profit here, could be made out”.

He dismissed the negligence claims against Mace & Jones.

Lawrence Downey, senior partner of Mace & Jones, commented: “Every law firm has to contend with allegations of negligence from time to time, and it is very sad that it happened in this particular case, with a long-standing client.”

Downey said the firm had been “vindicated by a very strong judgment”.

Mace & Jones was represented by Beachcroft. Consultant Tony Hill at the firm’s Manchester office said the case was one of the most significant professional negligence cases to have reached trial in 2010 and “shows that the courts will be impatient with substantial claims which are advanced on a hypothetical basis but without sufficient supporting evidence on causation and loss”.

D Morgan was represented by international construction and engineering specialists Systech Solicitors.

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