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In the solicitors negligence claim of Mason & Ors v Mills & Reeve (A Firm)  EWCA Civ 498 the Claimants lost a considerable part of their inheritance because their father died during heart surgery, just two weeks after selling his business for £3.5 million.
Prior to the sale a solicitor from the Defendants was “blind copied” into an email from the Claimant. As many of us have experienced, the email included a chain of correspondence, one of which from three days earlier which had never been sent to the Defendants direct referred to a heart operation which Mr Swain was due to undergo around the time that the sale was take place.
The Court of Appeal decided
- “there is nothing to suggest that Mr. Swain had any particular intention to convey the information about the heart procedure contained in that e-mail to Mills & Reeve. On the contrary … it appears to be pure happenstance that the chain included the information about the heart procedure.”
The judge also stated that the e-mail exchange was copied to the corporate finance partner involved in the transaction, not the tax lawyer with whom Mr. Swain had been corresponding directly, and that there was nothing in that e-mail to indicate that the heart procedure was anything other than a routine procedure
The court therefore found the solicitors had not been negligent
Given the amount of email correspondence received by solicitors including emails not specifically intended for them and many copies of the same email an obligation to actively advise on the contents of all such correspondence, without specific instruction or request, would be onerous and leave open the possibility of a solicitors negligence claim over something they had never been instructed on.
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