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Is expert evidence always needed to plead professional negligence?

The case

ACD (Landscape Architects) Ltd v Overall and another [2012]EWHC 100 (TCC)

The issue

Is expert evidence always needed to plead professionalnegligence? Is a strike-out application the appropriate way forward if noexpert evidence is served?

The decision

Although expert evidence is usually needed to supportallegations of professional negligence, it is not always essential. In somecases obtaining expert evidence at a very early stage may be disproportionate,particularly if only modest sums are at stake, or there is a reasonableprospect of early settlement, or in solicitors’ negligence cases.

However if the claimant pursues a claim for a long timewithout obtaining expert evidence, or makes it clear that it does not intend toobtain expert evidence, then the professional should bring this to theattention of the court.

The court also suggested that the most cost-effective way tochallenge the absence of expert evidence would be to raise it at the first casemanagement conference. A strike-out application would only be appropriate in“an extreme case”.

Comment

In Pantelli Associates Ltd v Corporate City DevelopmentsNumber Two Ltd [2010] EWHC 3189 (TCC), Coulson J said that it was “whollyinappropriate” to make an allegation of professional negligence which was notsupported by expert evidence. However this latest case makes it clear that thePantelli guidance is not set in stone. In some cases, it will not be necessaryor proportionate to obtain expert evidence in order to plead professionalnegligence. However if no expert evidence is produced as the case progresses,this is a matter which should be addressed by the court.

This article was first written by Bond Pearce and has beenreproduced with their permission. Bond Pearce are a leading UK business lawfirm, to find out more go to bondpearce.com.

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