Mishcons sued over gay marriage contract

Mishcon de Reya has brought in Barlow Lyde & Gilbert to defend it against negligence claims stemming from its work on a bizarre deed of co-habitation. Mishcons and a second firm Gawor & Co face a total claim of £500,000.
The claim is being brought by Mark Sutton, the former gay lover of a rich Swedish businessman, Geurt Staal.
Staal instructed Mishcons to set up the deed, described in a High Court writ as a form of marriage, allowing his fortune to be handed over to Sutton. Newly-qualified solicitor Jonathan Perchal drafted the deed, but warned that it might not be enforceable in the English courts, the writ says. Perchal is no longer at the firm.
The deed also stated that Staal would be completely subservient to Sutton and confirmed the handing over of gifts worth £80,000 by the retired businessman, who lived in Stockholm, to his London lover.
The two men signed the document four months into their relationship, which began in June 1996.
However, the relationship broke down and in August 1997 the two men signed a deed of separation. Under the agreement, Sutton returned a London house to Staal, was released from financial liabilities to a Swedish bank and allowed to keep all money and gifts given by Staal.
Sutton now alleges that Perchal should not have acted for both men, since there was an obvious conflict of interest. The writ states that the deed was arguably void and immoral as it involved Staal being completely subservient to Sutton. It also alleges the deed was poorly drafted, lacked clarity or certainty, was inconsistent, did not make good sense, and did not seem to be drafted to achieve its apparent purpose.
Gawor & Co, which advised Sutton on the property that he was planning to share with his lover, is also being sued for negligence. Sutton alleges that the firm failed to consider properly whether the claimant could establish beneficial ownership of the property or at least half of it. The claim also states that Gawor & Co failed to seek advice from counsel and failed to pursue certain arguments while in negotiation with Staal’s solicitors Hughmans on the property matter.
Mishcons declined to comment.