Widow sues Shoosmiths over drink driving action

A widowed mother is suing road traffic accident experts Shoosmith & Harrison for nearly £250,000, alleging that the firm failed to serve a summons on the drink driver who killed her husband.

Shoosmiths had been acting for 32-year-old widow and mother-of-one Yvonne Lewis in her action for damages against James Burke, an uninsured driver convicted of causing the death of her postman husband by dangerous driving.

Lewis' writ against Shoosmiths alleges that a summons it issued to Burke's last address was returned by the Post Office and never served on Burke.

Shoosmiths then got leave to sue the Motor Insurers' Bureau (MIB), the fund that pays out for uninsured drivers, both on its own behalf and as a substitute for Burke. But Lewis' writ alleges Shoosmiths failed to serve the MIB with one of the two writs and that the MIB, therefore, had a complete defence against her £239,000 claim.

Tim Quinn, professional negligence assistant at Islington firm Bolt & Burdon, which is acting for Lewis, said: “What is galling is that it is more than four years after the incident occurred and the young mother still has not received compensation. We put Shoosmiths on notice on 4 February. The firm put it in the hands of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) and we have had to issue a writ. Now the SIF has instructed Henmans to defend the action.”

Shoosmiths managing partner Graham New stressed he had “the deepest sympathy for Mrs Lewis”.

“The fee earner concerned – an experienced personal injury lawyer – thought the time limit on the writ had been waived. The defendant disagreed, it went to court and the defendant won. We then told Mrs Lewis that she must have separate advice. We reported the matter to our insurance company and it now rests with them.”