Pinsents looks to strike out £10m professional negligence claim

Pinsent Masons is set to go to the High Court tomorrow in a bid to strike out a £10m professional negligence claim being pursued against it by construction contractor Shepherd Construction.

The firm has drafted in 4 New Square’s David Sear QC, instructed by Beale and Company senior partner Antony Smith, to lead its defence of the claim, which relates to the drafting of contract clauses.

Shepherd Construction alleges that a contract drawn up by the firm on a joint venture agreement between Modus and CIREF creating Trinity Walk Wakefield left it liable for subcontractor fees.

The claimant company was the main contractor on the project. It had attempted to avoid paying the subcontractor fees, but a High Court ruling handed down by Mr Justice Coulson in June 2009 held it liable for the fees.

The Court of Appeal later reaffirmed the first instance decision, holding that Shepherd Construction could not withhold payment on the basis it had a ’pay when paid clause’ in its contract with the subcontractor.

The company is now pursuing Pinsent Masons over that clause, which it says became invalid when the Enterprise Act was enacted in 2002. The firm counters that the claim has no basis because the clause was valid when the contract was drafted.

Pinsent Masons partner Andrew Paton said: “We’re disappointed that proceedings have been commenced against us by Shepherd Construction. We shall be vigorously defending these allegations in the Technology and Construction Court and have applied to strike out the claim.”

Pinsent Masons’ lawyer, Smith at Beale and Company, said: “Pinsent Masons denies all liability as the contract was accurate when drafted.

“Therefore the allegations in the claim would impose a difficult burden on all solicitors in Pinsent Masons’ position, which the legal profession would want to see defeated.” 

The company could not be reached for comment.