Lyons v Fox Williams LLP [2018] EWCA Civ 2347

The recent case of Lyons v Fox Williams LLP [2018] EWCA Civ 2347 involved consideration of the scope of the Solicitor’s retainer and is subsequently of importance to Solicitors and well worth considering. The case concerned a Claimant’s Appeal following an unsuccessful action for professional negligence against a firm of Solicitors.

Unfortunately the Claimant was unsuccessful in pursuing the claim against the Defendant and the Claimant recovered nothing despite having turned down a Calderbank offer of £500,000.00 from the Defendant.

The Appeal was heard before Lord Justice Patten, Lord Justice David Richards and Lady Justice Asplin who highlighted the Solicitor’s duty to warn and advise in relation to matters within the parameters of the retainer.

In particular it was highlighted that it was “the solicitor’s obligation to bring to the client’s attention risks which become apparent to the solicitor when performing his retainer does not involve the solicitor in doing extra work or in operating outside the scope of his retainer. The risks in question are all matters which come to his attention when performing the tasks the client has instructed him to carry out and which therefore as part of his duty of care he must make the client aware of”.

The authorities in support of Solicitor’s legal duty to warn clients are Minkin and Credit Lyonnais , however, neither state that a Solicitor is expected to or required to carry out investigative tasks in areas that are outside of the scope of the retainer regardless of whether it would be beneficial to the client. In this particular case it highlighted the practicalities of this. For example, in this case it was found that the Solicitor could not have advised the Claimant about a particular area (specifically his rights under a policy and any relevant time limits in relation to potential claims) unless he had carried out a thorough examination of the policies and a certain amount of legal research. Although the Solicitor received documentation in relation to the policies the Judge found that that the Solicitor was never instructed to do this. Subsequently the Claimant was refused permission to appeal against the Judge’s findings in this respect.


Rebecca Mogford