Court of Appeal throws out ‘distasteful’ DWS petition

Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) has been slammed by the Court of Appeal after losing a case brought by Kathryn Fifield, a former secretary who was injured while working for the firm.

Lord Justice Buxton said: “I find it distasteful that a well-known firm of solicitors should not only submit a long-standing employee to a trial at which it called psychiatric evidence in an attempt to show that her symptoms were imaginary, but that even when it rightly abandoned that unattractive argument in this court, it nonetheless sought to escape from its responsibilities to its employee, both by attacking clear and compelling findings of fact by the judge relating to its dismissive attitude to its responsibilities under the regulations, and by persisting in the argument that Mrs Fifield’s injuries were not its responsibility.”

Fifield brought a claim for negligence and breach of statutory duty after suffering pain in her wrists and arms. Her symptoms began in 1998, but worsened in 1999 when her workload increased. She left the firm that year.

In March 2005, a judge sitting in Guildford upheld her claim, awarding damages of £157,341 and costs of £100,000.

A DWS spokesperson said: “We’re surprised by the justice’s comments. The decision to appeal was made by our insurers and not by the firm. We believe that the procedures we now have in place are as good as any in the legal industry.”