Happy New Year, first of all.
Christmas is just behind us in our mirrors, and “Goodwill to All” is a motto to live up to. However – within limits – I would suggest.
If there are any avid readers of my Blogs, they will remember my horror stories of the consequences which can follow acts of generosity – links to blogs –here- and –here-. And for good measure, a Solicitors Tribunal case, punishing a Solicitor who did sloppy work for friends -here-
These are cases where friends have asked for free professional help and been given free help – but when things have gone badly they have viciously bitten the helping hand.
Remember the fable of Androcles and the Lion? The gist being, if you befriend a lion with a thorn in its paw by removing the thorn, salving and binding the paw and generally sorting the job then the lion will not bite you all to bits when you next meet in the arena. Instead Leo will repay you by purring and requesting tummy rubs.
The motto being – “Gratitude is the sign of Noble Souls”
All very fine and dandy, but arguably there is one thing to bear in mind about fables and fairy stories.
It is, the “not-being-true” thing.
Whilst everything went fine in the made up story, what do we expect of the lion if Androcles had mucked up? Pulled the thorn back out not noticing it was hugely barbed. Treated it with the wrong kind of salve so that the paw turned green and dropped off? Perhaps a little optimistic if you think his lion pal is going to say – “No bother Androcles, not your fault” “Well, second thoughts, it is your fault but hey – you had a go and your heart’s in the right place.”
Anyway, one of those cases was that of Mrs Lejonvarn, an architect. Her close friends and neighbours Mr and Mrs Burgess mentioned to her in 2012 or so that they wanted to transform their garden in Highgate into something really special. Serious landscaping and structural work for which builders would have to be paid serious money.
Given that supplying architectural services is Mrs Lejonvarn’s professional skill which has taken her years to acquire and from which she earns her living, how generous of her to offer to assist and to do so FREE OF CHARGE. Is she mad, is she a Saint? It’s not as if the Burgesses had no money, or were in any kind of distress. Or were lions, with thorns.
Why do professional people fall for this time and again? I wonder –“could you just take a look at this for me?” is how it starts.
So anyway, my earlier Blogs related to the first Court hearing, when it was established by the original decision, and confirmed upon Appeal that whether or not there was any contractual obligation to do work (there wasn’t) or any money paid (there wasn’t) nevertheless Mrs Lejonvarn is required by law to “use reasonable skill and care” in respect of such work as she carried out.
Really I am surprised that Mrs Lejonvarn was even advised to contest those hearings. I should have thought the result would have been obvious. All the court was really saying, by analogy, was that if you ask your friend who is a doctor to give you free treatment and if the doctor does agree to do that, then the treatment given must be as careful and correct as it should have been within a paid contract – Doc is not entitled to be careless and thereby kill you just because his work is a “favour”.
But recently the full case has been decided. Here is the full report –Link Here –
Seven or so years after the start of all this, surprise surprise, it turns out that the Burgesses have nothing concrete or credible to say. Their grievance seems to be based upon a misconception that Mrs L had given them a fixed budget for the work – though even there they seem confused between them as to whether this was £78,000.00 or £130,000.00.
In their minds, this meant that because the actual work cost them nearly £400,000.00, therefore the overspend was entirely her fault and she should pay them £270,000.00 or so. Never mind that they sacked her in 2013 and nothing that was done to the garden after that involved her in the slightest.
Never mind that the Judge could not find a single instance in which they had satisfied him that Mrs L’s work fell short of the necessary standard of reasonable skill and care.
What the Burgesses failed to understand was that Mrs L was helping them from the kindness of her heart. Whatever she agreed to do, she did well.
But Mr and Mrs B were complaining in essence about what Mrs L had not done at all.
- She had not micromanaged the construction work,
- She had not acted as if she were a Building Surveyor.
- She had not ensured that the construction was not unsafe (though no evidence was produced of any unsafety).
As the Judge had to explain to the Burgesses, if someone helps you, you are lucky. But you have no right to require or expect your friend to do anything over and above what they are willing to do. In essence, the difference between the obligations imposed by a contract, and by common law “Tort”.
And how on earth is your friend is supposed to be responsible for the cost of the work carried out after you sack her?
What the Judge heard was, in my opinion, an entirely inappropriate wail of rage from the Burgesses whose sense of grievance may have blinded them to all else.
At any rate when a Judge reviews your evidence in terms such as “offends common sense” and “wholly unsupported by the evidence” or “this claim suggests that the Claimants seek to punish the Defendant ….rather than seek fair compensation”, it is pretty clear that his concluding words will be “This Claim is Dismissed”
Of course the next argy bargy will be – who pays the extremely substantial Court costs?
There is nothing in the court report to define one way or the other the effect of all this upon Mrs Lejonvarn. Upon her mental and physical health and upon her own wealth and time. Imagine if you were she – Six years of worry and sleepless nights?
What have I learnt? Nothing I didn’t already know –
- Clients are not all toxic by any means.
- Charge them fairly and do your best job for them.
- Friends are not all toxic by any means.
- But they are friends, and not clients.
- They can’t be both, not if you want to sleep at night.
- Or want friends.
Or Frenz – Link to The Fall-
Or alternatively please telephone on 0113 8160116 or 07715608747. Please also feel free to visit our website www.atkinsonnotary.com