Litigation Writs 24/06/97

Three Swindon land owners who claim a local firm of solicitors was negligent in its handling of a property transaction have now launched a potentially massive High Court damages claim. Jeremy and Peter Francis and Caroline Findley, all of Manor Farm, Haydon Wick, Swindon, have issued a writ seeking damages from solicitors Townsends, of Swindon. The writ claims that, in 1955, their parents Godfrey and Pamela Francis bought Manor Farm, a prime site close to the outskirts of Swindon and, in April 1986, entered into an option agreement with Crest Estates. According to the writ, this agreement was to expire on 31 December 1991 unless planning permission had been granted for development by this date. The writ claims that Townsends acted for the family in negotiating the terms of the agreement, drawing it up and representing them, but it accuses the firm of negligence. It claims that Townsends failed to warn the family that a member of its staff had insufficient skill and experience to competently undertake the work for them, failed to give them proper advice, failed to act on instructions, failed to advise them of the terms and effect of proposed variations of the agreement, or that it would not be in their interests to enter into variations, and failed to take proper care. Planning permission for 641 acres of the Haydon Wick area, including their land was granted on 8 July 1992. Crest exercised its option to buy the land, but its offer of £1.6m for the land was rejected and the matter then went to arbitration where a price tag of £3.6m was put on the land. This is still said to be a shortfall of £978,000 and the writ claims that Townsends were negligent and in breach of agreement.

Writ was issued by Burges Salmon, of Bristol

A High Court action has been launched over a £476,000 factory fire at Stoke-on-Trent in 1992. Michelin Tyre of Campbell Road, Stoke-on-Trent, is suing scrap metal merchants F McGuinness and Sons of Stoke-on-Trent, for damages as a result of the fire. Its writ claims that, in 1992, McGuinness agreed to remove redundant spinning machines from the ground floor of the factory where the fire took place in exchange for keeping the metal. However, it claims that flame-cutting equipment used in the process set fire to rayon cord stored below and fire broke out causing damage to stock and buildings totalling £476,181.

Writ issued by Berrymans Lace Mawer, London