Pannone prepares to do battle over professional negligence claims

Pannone, 13 Old Square’s Michael Booth QC and Serle Court’s David Casement QC have become embroiled in a legal battle between Isle of Man millionaire Albert Gubay and his former lawyer Peter Willers in a multi million pound case set to be heard by the High Court next year.

The complex case centres on advice given by Pannone legacy firm Wacks Caller to the liquidator of Aqua Design & Play International, Simon Haskew, in a case he was then pursing against the company’s directors.

The two barristers were instructed by Pannone to advise on the dispute, which was being bankrolled by Gubay’s company Langstone Group. Langstone had instructed Aqua Design to install swimming pools in high street gym chain Total Fitness and as a creditor to the company had wanted to help fund its case.

Langstone alleges that in-house counsel Willers was effectively running the dispute. However, as the matter reached an advanced stage the legal team was dismissed in July 2009 and the case against the directors was settled.

Haskew and Langstone have now looked to bring claims against their advisers in an attempt to recover the legal costs.

Langstone has launched a professional negligence claim against Wacks Caller and Pannone, and another separate claim against Willers that alleges that the lawyer acted of his own accord. Willers, meanwhile, has launched his own breach of contract case against Gubay in the Isle of Man claiming that he was acting in accordance with his employer’s wishes. He has also been added to the London proceedings as a part 20 defendant.

DWF has instructed Wilberforce Chambers’ Terry Mowschenson QC for Langstone. Willers is represented by Blackstone Chambers’ Hugo Page QC.

Haskew, meanwhile, is bringing a case against the firm, Booth and Casement, who is also a member of Kings Chambers, alleging that the team failed to consider his independent interests and those of the other Aqua creditors. The claim follows on from an earlier case in which Pannone pursued Haskew for non-payment of costs.

Hailsham Chambers’ Jamie Carpenter has been instructed for Haskew. Clyde & Co has been drafted in to defend the claim for the counsel, while Pannone has turned to Hill Dickinson. They counter that Haskew’s and Aqua’s interests were protected by the funding and guarantees from Langstone. In any event, it is said that Gubay directed what happened and Haskew just followed that direction.

The case is set for a five-week showdown at the Commercial Court from 15 April 2013. With five silks involved in battling out the claims, including 4 New Square’s Justin Fenwick QC for Pannone and 4 Stone Buildings’ George Bompass QC for Booth and Casement, it is set to be one of the biggest professional negligence battles of the year.

However, the case will be eclipsed by London Underground’s £140m claim against Freshfields Bruckhaus Derringer in which Herbert Smith has been joined as a defendant (28 November 2012).