In the recent case of Mr Douglas Hague v British Telecommunications Plc attention has been drawn to the importance of attendance notes in supporting agreements between the parties when a point is contested.

The circumstances of this claim pertain to the Claimant, Mr Douglas Hague, who was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. Settlement was achieved pre-issue for a sum of £220,000.00 plus costs. This agreement was also exclusive of privately funded immunotherapy treatment. Following conclusion and treatment being sought a dispute arose as to the scope of the contractual agreement made.

While no issue was raised in respect of the preliminary treatment to be provided, the scope of ‘second line treatment’ was contested. The Defendant alleged that the treatment now sought was outside of the contractual agreement reached; amounting to a ‘third line treatment’ and therefore not payable.

The Claimant advanced submissions that the agreement pertaining to the treatment sought was entirely clear. The Claimant confirmed the scope of this treatment was defined in line the National Cancer Dictionary of Cancer Terms and therefore the monies sought were recoverable in full.

During the course of his determination Master Thornett made reference to attendance notes between the parties as evidence as to the scope of the contractual agreement. While the Defendant made submissions that these file notes be deemed inadmissible, this was rejected by Master Thornett.

Master Thornett confirmed that where there

‘is a specific and focused question whether there was a commen intention how this agreed phase should be defined’ the attendance note would be allowed. Master Thornett confirmed that these notes not only would qualify ‘whether the Defendant’s current stance is factually incorrect but more pertinently that the Defendant is estopped from arguing to the contrary.’ (Paragraph 27).

It is clear therefore in line with Master Thornett’s determination should an attendance note go to the heart of the intention of the parties in establishing a prior agreement they will not be found to be inadmissible. This case therefore highlights the importance of full and precise file keeping on all such matters to ensure any future ambiguity is put to rest.

Jack Holland