Beachcrofts wins loss of chance case

Beachcroft Wansbroughs has successfully defended a firm of solicitors against a 'loss of chance' claim, which it believes could herald a shift in the courts' treatment of cases of this sort.
Hatswell v Goldbergs was brought about after Goldbergs failed to start clinical negligence proceedings against its client's doctor in time, leading the client to sue his lawyers for the lost chance of compensation.
The claim was dismissed from the Court of Appeal after Lord Justice Rix and Sir Murray Stuart-Smith held that the fact that the claimant's underlying clinical negligence claim could not succeed meant the value of lost opportunity was nil.
Beachcrofts insurance lawyer William Ellerton, who defended Goldbergs, said that the decision “did not sit easily” with cases of a similar nature, but hoped the Court of Appeal would take the same stance in the future.
Grahame Aldous of 9 Gough Square, who was instructed by Beachcrofts, said the case recognised that “a solicitor's negligence does not convert a hopeless case into a valuable one”.
Caroline Mitchell, partner at Plymouth firm Serpell Son & Davey, who acted for the claimant, denied that the outcome could indicate any significant change in approach by the courts.
She said: “The underlying clinical negligence action would always be difficult to prove because the available medical notes were sparse and those which were available led the court to its conclusion.”
Alexander Antelme at Crown Office Chambers was instructed by Serpell Son & Davey for the claimant.