Frizzell hits Birchams with £1.4m negligence action

Westminster firm Bircham Dyson Bell is being sued for damages of more than £1m for professional negligence

West Country firm Clarke Willmott & Clarke has brought a High Court case on behalf of Frizzell Financial Services. Frizzell alleges that Birchams gave negligent advice over a break clause in the lease of its London offices. Birchams denies any wrongdoing. The firm's executive committee chairman Nick Brown said: “Supported by our insurers we're strongly resisting the claim.”
Frizzell claims that Birchams was negligent when it failed to advise that under the terms of its lease, the company should have carried out repair work on its premises before trying to exercise a break clause. Birchams' partner on the case was John Stephenson, who was head of the commercial property department until last year.
Philip Tebbat, the Clarke Willmott partner on the case, said: “In order for the break notice to be valid, Frizzell should have complied with covenants in the lease, but our client says Birchams didn't ask them about this.”
When Frizzell exercised the break clause, Mitsui, the landlord, claimed that the lease had not been validly terminated. After negotiations Frizzell had to pay more than £1.4m to extract itself from the lease.
Birchams has a drafting unit that works for the UK and Northern Irish Parliaments. But the firm has recently moved to bolster other areas of its practice, particularly private client, through a merger with niche firm Halsey Meyer Higgins and the capture of a private client team from Radcliffes. It also has a small commercial property department of which Frizzell was a client.