A farmer who put up a sign claiming Cripps Harries Hall “ripped off” its clients has won £102,500 in damages after he was assaulted when the firm tried to pull it down.
In the High Court last week Deputy Judge Nigel Wilkinson QC ruled that John Hoath had been unlawfully injured during the incident in 1994 after a dispute over fees prompted him to erect the sign.
He said the firm had mistakenly decided on a “self-help” solution when the firm's former senior partner Christopher Hall, his son Colin, and a farm hand went to remove it.
He said this amounted to trespassing and at one point the farm worker had used excessive force to restrain Hoath causing him a lasting injury to his neck.
The firm had acted for Hoath's family for many years, but their relationship soured when he did not pay his bills and the firm obtained county court judgments against him.
In 1991 Hoath was bankrupted.
“Hoath is a bitter, angry man who attributes great wrong to the defendant firm,” said the judge.
“He put up the sign because he wished to provoke the defendants into taking legal proceedings against him, presumably an action for defamation and therefore providing him with an opportunity that he sought to ventilate his grievances before a jury,” the judge concluded.