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John Vander Luit

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Exclusive: Bott & Co litigator's 'mistake' a 'one-off', says senior partner

Exclusive: Bott & Co litigator's 'mistake' a 'one-off', says senior partner


Firm offers clients £750 each after lawyer 'misled' them

A 'mistake' made by a Bott & Co litigator who was representing holidaymakers in a flight delay compensation claim was a 'one-off', the firm's senior partner has told Solicitors Journal.

The Cheshire-based firm represented 130 passengers pro bono in their claims against Small Planet Airlines UAB (SP) over a flight from Manchester to Corfu last year, which was delayed by 38 hours due to a 'technical fault'.

In a letter seen by Solicitors Journal dated 16 May, David Bott, senior partner and complaints and compliance officer at Bott & Co, wrote to the passengers explaining how one of the firm's litigators, Kevin Clarke, had 'misled' them 'as to the stage reached in proceedings and the likely extent of your potential claims'.

Specifically, Clarke had stated to them that 'court proceedings had been issued against SP in February 2017', a 'judgment had been entered against SP in March 2017', and 'sheriffs had been instructed to enforce the judgment in March 2017'.

'It has come to my attention that none of the above took place and I am therefore treating this matter as a complaint,' the letter continued.

'As Kevin Clarke's employer his actions are our responsibility. He is currently the subject of an ongoing disciplinary action as a result of his handling of your claim.

'We take our obligations to you seriously and hope this letter and my proposed resolution will demonstrate our commitment to make amends to you and your fellow passengers.'

The firm proposed to pay £750 to each client, comprised of £350 for the initial claim against SP, plus interest, and £400 in compensation for poor service.

Bott then explained how the issue came to the firm's attention.

'On Monday 8 May, our managing director became aware of inconsistencies in the details you were being told on this case and investigated the matter thoroughly over the rest of that week.'

The investigations revealed several contributory factors in the firm's failures: the complexity of the claim; SP being based outside of the EU; managing the expectations of the group; Clarke's belief that the matter was on the verge of settlement; complications on multiple other SP cases involving 400 passengers; Clarke wanting to keep the group happy; and his not asking for help in the handling of a complex matter.

While none of the above were substantial in themselves, wrote Bott, put together 'Kevin found himself in an intolerable situation and made some serious errors of judgement'.

Bott apologised for 'any stress and anxiety caused' by the firm's actions and invited any passengers who were still dissatisfied to meet him to discuss matters further.

Speaking to Solicitors Journal this morning Bott said: 'It's a one-off. The claim has now been settled. Small Planet have agreed to pay the passengers and are in the process of paying the passengers. Obviously the poor service side of things is a Bott expense. We accept that and have paid that.

'We found out as a firm that a mistake had been made and as soon as we did we started investigating it and as soon as we thought something wasn't right, we informed the passengers straight away.

'The letter which we sent to the passengers on 16 May dealt with it transparently, honestly, and also with regards to any sort of client care issues, compensated them entirely fairly.

'Accompanying the letter was a client care letter setting out all of their options on how to make a complaint should they have wished although to our knowledge no one has brought a complaint.

'To a man and woman the passengers have appreciated that honesty and appreciated the way we dealt with it and been happy with the resolution.'

Matthew Rogers is a legal reporter at Solicitors Journal'‚| @lex_progress