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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

£986,000 damages following firm's professional negligence

£986,000 damages following firm's professional negligence


An adult son who was disinherited by his mother has won almost £1m in damages for law firm negligence

An adult son who was disinherited by his mother has won almost £1m in damages for law firm negligence. 

Oxford University professor Christopher Gosden brought a professional negligence claim against the now defunct firm Halliwell Landau and one of its former partners.

In 2003, his late mother had created a tax mitigation scheme to lower her inheritance tax liability, appointing Gosden and his wife as trustees and left her estate to them.

However, she entered into a civil partnership with Wendy Cook – a barrister almost half her age and the property was then sold. 

She also changed her will leaving more than half of her estate to her civil partner along with provision for Gosden’s children. 

However, Gosden argued that the trust drawn up by the firm should have given him and his wife the right to veto the 2010 sale of the property, which had taken place in breach of trust and without their knowledge.

Last year, he successfully argued in the appeal court that the firm was negligent in drafting the trust agreement and in failing to register a restriction at Land Registry. The court said had the solicitors registered the restriction in accordance with their duty of care to the claimants, no sale could have taken place without their consent

At the trial on quantum, the High Court this week awarded Gosden £986,000 in damages.

The court concluded that it was reasonably foreseeable when the breach of duty occurred that Gosden would keep the property for some years after his late mother’s death and rented out as an investment property.  

A separate ruling on costs is to follow.