Withers to pay £100k plus costs over negligent Chelsea garden advice

Withers has been ordered to pay £100,000 to a former client after the High Court found it had been negligent in advice over a Chelsea property purchase.

Jonathan Seitler
Jonathan Seitler

RPC senior associate Caroline Shiffner instructed Hailsham Chambers’ Michael Pooles QC to defend the long-running claim in which judgment was handed down yesterday.

Mr Justice Newey accepted submissions by Wilberforce Chambers’ Jonathan Seitler QC that claimants Jeffrey and Mina Herrmann were wrongly advised that they would gain access to private gardens once they had splashed out £6.8m on a Chelsea Home. Seitler was instructed by Jones Day partner Barnaby Stueck for the claimants.

The husband and wife claimants completed the purchase of the property in Ovington Square in June 2008, instructing Withers to advise on the deal.

Yet when they realised they had no right to hold keys to the gardens outside the property – a point that had been raised with Withers during the purchase process – the pair launched their claim.

Newey J said that, while it was “not obvious” that the Kensington Improvement Act 1851 prohibited the claimant’s use of the garden, the firm had failed to consider the “substantial risk” it could pose.

The judge added: “All in all, I’ve concluded that it was negligent of  Withers to advise in unequivocal terms that the Herrmanns would have “the right to enter into and use the garden at Ovington Square”.

The judge added that had the claimants negotiated with the Garden Committee “they would probably have been granted a 50-year licence for £25,000”.

Withers was ordered to pay £104,600 to the claimants plus costs, which are thought to be in excess of £200,000.

The legal line up:

For the claimants Jeffrey Herrmann and Mina Herrmann: Wilberforce Chambers’ Jonathan Seitler QC led Benjamin Faulkner also of Wilberforce Chambers, instructed by Jones Day partner Barnaby Stueck.

For the defendants Withers: Hailsham Chambers’ Michael Pooles QC led Paul Mitchell also of Hailsham Chambers, instructed by RPC senior associate Caroline Shiffner.