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Case Studies

Case Studies

Griffith - Inheritance dispute Case Study

Inheritance disputes are always difficult.  Because of the circumstances and the potentially life-changing sums involved, emotions run high and the situation needs to be managed carefully if the best and fairest option outcome is to be reached. 

Recently I was instructed to take a look at a probate dispute that was even more delicate than usual; it related directly to the legal validity of the will, not just the wishes included within it.

The case was split between two very different claims. 

My client – the claimant - would have been the sole beneficiary if the estate was to be administered under the laws of Intestacy (the legal position of an estate after a person dies without leaving without a will).  Meanwhile the other side – the defendant - would remain the sole beneficiary if the estate was distributed under the terms of a will they swore existed.

The only problem was that although there were allegedly witnesses to the signing of the will, the original will had been lost and the defendant only had a draft of the will which hadn’t been signed. 

In the vast majority of cases if a signed copy of a will can’t be produced, the position is that no valid will exists.  However, this case had been complicated by the defendant’s claims as to how the alleged will had come into existence.  We had witness statements from individuals who were adamant the will that the defendant had asked them to witness had been forged.  Moreover, further witnesses claimed the defendant had “controlled” the deceased and had used that influence over the deceased to steal a large amount of money from him.

The defendant denied this.  She stated in writing that she had never received monetary gifts from the deceased during the two years leading up to his death.  However, this was contradicted by the bank statements we obtained during our evidence gathering.  Those statements clearly showed the deceased had transferred at least £118,000 during that period.  With alarm bells ringing increasingly loudly, we immediately insisted those ‘loans’ were repaid to the estate.

Mediation was ordered by the Court at a Hearing and when the day of the mediation came we’d kept some of our evidence back for strategic reasons.  We knew from experience we would be able to serve our client better if the defendant didn’t know just how much we’d uncovered.

We also knew our client was desperate for the matter to be heard by a judge in open court.  She was sure the defendant was lying and, therefore, would be open to an accusation of perjury as well as fraud, charges that could force the defendant and her witnesses to face serious criminal proceedings.  With that in mind we knew successfully navigating the mediation process – an outcome that relied on how and when we presented the evidence we had uncovered - was a necessary step towards that goal.

Thankfully the matter was resolved at the mediation.  In the face of overwhelming evidence and a well-structured legal argument, mediation was settled in our client’s favour.  The defendant agreed to accept a small amount and to move out of the deceased’s property as it belonged to the estate.  Our client was awarded 97% of the estate.

While our client was rightfully pleased with the result, she still maintained that had the ruling not gone her way she had been willing to trust us to present our case in court, so confident was she in the strategy we’d constructed.  She knew the witnesses wouldn’t be able to stand up to our cross examination or to the public scrutiny we’d inflict on the available evidence.

Thankfully our involvement made sure our client was spared the particular stress of having a full hearing in court and she was quick to praise our involvement and our approach:

“Selachii do what they say; they fight for you. Technically excellent combined with a truly innovative approach to the law, Selachii are driven, skilful and resolute in fighting their client’s corner to achieve a successful resolution.”

However, at the same time we understand all the risks associated with a fraudulent will or a contested probate and we know the risks involved with taking a contested will to court. This is why we loaded our arguments so heavily for and followed such a tight strategy during the mediation. 

As always, our only aim was to get the best possible result for our client.  In this case we recognised the best way to do that would be to overrun the opposition in their chosen arena so we could reach the outcome we wanted as early as possible and spare our client any additional time, stress or expense in the process.

Arbitration - Shared Dirveway Case Study

When a shared driveway led to a dispute between neighbours over ownership and access, the potential for a bitter battle resulting in high legal costs was clear. Because the parties agreed early on to mediate the dispute, a solution was rapidly reached which gave each side the right of access they need, resolved the issue as regards title and avoided the need for a trial and lengthy argument over complex areas of law.

Construction Dispute Resolution - Case Study

When an engineering firm found itself in the firing line after work done by a building firm under its supervision was found to be defective, the builders argued that it could not claim a 'contribution' towards its losses from them as the their contract with the firm for whom the work was done contained a time limit for a claim being made against the builders.

However, the engineering firm relied on legislation and common law that allows a contribution to be claimed in such circumstances and for which the time limit did not apply. The court was persuaded that the builders could not establish that the time limit in their contract with the original claimant applied the engineers also.

Financial Dispute Resolution - Case Study

When a couple used a credit broker to negotiate a loan to consolidate debts, they found that the broker took more than 18 per cent of the total loan in commissions of various sorts, without giving them sufficient notice or receiving their 'informed consent'.

Arguments that the broker owed them a duty of care and that this had been breached by his behaviour brought them a refund of more than £4,000.

Intellectual Property - Special Cases - Case Study

When international arbitration proceedings led to a decision that went against an online gaming firm client and resulted in them having to transfer valuable domain names to the claimant, the only way to stop this from happening was to issue substantive proceedings in the IPEC court at very short notice.

After a strongly-argued case, our clients overturned the original arbitrators decision and kept their domain names.

Intellectual Property - What Can I do if Someone Infringes my Intellectual Property Rights? - Case Study

When a home improvement company found another company offering similar products under a similar name, the potential for damage to the company's business was clear. The threat of action for 'passing off' and breaches of trademarks and copyright was sufficient to achieve a prompt resolution of the matter and a satisfactory compensation package was negotiated.

Investment Disputes - Case Study

When a businessman lost out after clearly improper advice was given by a regulated investment adviser, he intended to use the Ombudsman service to obtain compensation.

However, that would have limited his compensation. Using legal proceedings instead meant a full recovery of his losses.

Personal Dispute Resolution - Case Study

When brothers who set up in business together fell out some years later, their views of who had contributed what to the business and how the assets should be divided between them differed dramatically. The business had started on a handshake. The two men hadn't created a partnership agreement at the outset and so there was a lot of potential for argument, including over rights to the business name, assets, the premises from which it traded and so on.

Resolution of the dispute involved a period of mediation between the two and, taking care not to let emotions get in the way, a deal was arranged whereby one of the brothers bought out the other on terms both found acceptable.

This avoided formal legal proceedings, and potentially ruinous legal costs.

Professional Negligence - Case Study 1

A wealthy couple who relied on a landscape gardener friend's guidance were successful in a claim against her when the project went wrong, despite the fact that they had not paid her for the advice. The fact that she expected to pick up a fee for her advice later was sufficient to mean that they could take legal proceedings against her.

Some examples of professional negligence claims which are commonly made are:

  • Accountants and Auditors
  • Audit failure leading to non-disclosure of liabilites
  • Failed tax avoidance schemes
  • Incorrect tax advice, tax planning or compliance
  • Missing deadlines for filing documents
  • Mergers and acquisition advice
  • Cases settled for the wrong sum because of negligent expert advice
  • Investor losses because of reliance on accounting information
Professional Negligence - Case Study 2

When a firm of accountants advised a lender with regard to the prospects of a start-up business, which subsequently failed, the court's decision that their advice had been negligent led to £15 million in damages being awarded.

Solicitors

  • Missing deadlines for filing documents
  • Errors in drafting contracts, wills, trust documents or agreements
  • Poor or negligent representation in litigation
  • Errors in transfers of property, trust documents and so on
  • Failure to advise on legal obligations or rights.
Professional Negligence - Case Study 3

A solicitor who attached the wrong plan when doing a property transfer and gave incorrect advice about Stamp Duty Land Tax was ordered by the court to pay his client more than £230,000 in compensation.

Barristers

  • Failure to provide competent legal advice and respresentation.

Conveyancing

  • Failing to carry our proper searches in property purchases
  • Failing to notify the existence of charges or rights over property
  • Failure to ensure necessary licences are held prior to completion

Insurance brokers

  • Failure to ensure policies cover appropriate risks

IFAs / Financial Advisors

  • Poor investment advice
  • Failure to match your investment risk preference with the investment strategy recommended

Surveyors / Engineers / Architects

  • Errors of all kinds in the design, construction and supervision of work to complete of buildings, installations of plant and so on
  • Incorrect valuations of work done and property valuation errors leading to losses
Property Dispute Resolution - Case Study

A client of ours who owns a flat shares the entrance with the upstairs flat and was surprised to find that the owner claimed that the entrance to the flats was their property…and then started making demands over the use our tenant could make of the entrance.

Statutory Demands for Payment - Case Study

In 2014, a content creation client of ours was having serious problems being paid after we helped them win a court case against a company for breach of copyright. The losers simply refused to pay. A judgment of the court is a judgment debt, so there was no need to go to court again.

With an unsatisfied judgment debt in hand, we sent the debtor a statutory demand, on behalf of our client, indicating that we would start winding-up proceedings against them if they failed to settle their debt in full within 21 days. Although it was necessary to remind them as the date approached, payment in full was received before the 21 day time limit.

The area was shown on our client’s plan as a common area and there was no mention in their lease that their right over the area was limited to an ‘easement’ (a right of access over land) applying with regard to the entrance. The documents of title at the Land Registry were unclear as to the boundary.

To avoid a costly legal fight, we advised our client to tell the upstairs flat owner that they intended to register a ‘caution’ over the upstairs owner’s title, thus placing a warning on file that there was a potential dispute. As the owner of the upstairs flat was contemplating selling their property in the near future and wished to avoid the complications that a caution could cause, a speedy resolution was achieved.

Tax Disputes - Case Study

When HMRC refused a claim for losses on shares which had been acquired under a common employee share scheme and sold some years later, on the ground that the guidance they had issued before the shares were purchased had been withdrawn before they were sold, HMRC claimed that the guidance was 'merely an informal expression of their understanding of the law at the relevant time'. Strong representations to the Court led to a resounding defeat for HMRC and acceptance that the relief of the losses was due.

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MLA 2017 18 Shortlisted 2