Solicitor claims SIF error forced him out of business

A Hampshire solicitor is planning to sue the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, claiming that it put him out of business because of an error.

Michael Dalton, of Michael Dalton Solicitors in Hayling Island, said he was forced to stand down as a partner and become an employee in his own firm after he received a claims loading demand which doubled his insurance premium from £11, 250 to £22,500.

Dalton, whose firm has annual gross fees of around £200,000, was unable to pay and therefore had to “retire”. His partner, Donald Ramsbottom, is now sole partner, and the claims loading – applicable to Dalton only – is no longer payable.

The hike is alleged by the SIF to be in respect of three claims against the fund over a three-year period ending 31 August 1992. Dalton argues that for the greater part of the period he had retired from practice to become a farmer.

Dalton told The Lawyer: “At the time of the biggest claim I was not held out to be a partner as I was a farmer in Devon.

“I then sold my practice in 1989 to another, completely independent solicitor, and the other two claims were against him. The SIF has simply made a mistake.”

Dalton intends to sue as soon as he can find another firm of solicitors to represent him.

SIF managing director Elizabeth Mullins said it was not the fund's policy to comment on individual cases.