Beaumonts makes U-turn on instruction to sue RBS

An aviation company suing the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has been forced to instruct the bar direct after its law firm withdrew.

Aviation specialist firm Beaumont and Son would not comment on its reasons for withdrawing from the case, but it has since emerged that the firm was on the RBS panel all along.

AFX Capital, an air cargo carrier, instructed Beaumonts in March this year to advise on a £15m claim against the bank. A claim was filed in the High Court on 15 April 2004, alleging that RBS had failed to properly maintain an aircraft that the bank had reclaimed.

However, on 24 September Beaumonts filed a Notice of Change of Solicitor with the Admiralty and Commercial Registry, effectively removing itself from the case.

Beaumonts partner Patricia Barnes confirmed that the firm was on the RBS panel, but insisted its work for the bank was minimal.

Beaumonts instructed Philip Shepherd QC of 24 Old Buildings alongside Jane Giret QC of 11 Stone Buildings. It is understood AFX Capital will continue to instruct the pair through its in-house counsel.

Clause 8 of the ‘General Requirements’ section in the RBS panel tender document states: “Due to the close nature of our relationship and the fact that you are, or will become, privy to much confidential information concerning the Group, we would be unable to continue instructing you if you were to commence or threaten to commence litigation against any member of the Group.” All firms on the panel are bound by the term.

As revealed by The Lawyer last week (27 September), a reluctance to litigate against the big five UK clearing banks now pervades the City. Of the top 30 firms in The Lawyer UK 100, only four do not feature on the panels of any of the major clearing banks.

AFX and RBS declined to comment.