Solicitors' Duty to Non-Clients

Jan Samuel

If you would like to speak to an expert about suing a solicitor, call 01271 343457 for a free discussion. 

As a general rule, solicitors do not owe a duty of care to an opponent, either in relation to a transaction or in litigation.

However, as usual there are exceptions to the general rule, for example:

  • where a duty exists to a third party upon whom the client wished and intended to infer a legal benefit (such as a beneficiary of an estate); or
  • in conveyancing matters, if a solicitor goes beyond their role as their client’s solicitor, and accepts a direct responsibility to the buyer.

These types of case are the exception to the rule: In the case of Metropolitan Venue v Watson Barton the claimant issued proceedings against the developer's solicitors, although they were not instructed by the claimant. The court rejected the claimant’s arguments relating to the existence of a collateral contract, an implied retainer or a breach of a duty of care.

A solicitor may, however, become liable for a breach of duty if they expressly accept a duty of care towards a third party.

In the above case, the court indicated that where a third party receives its own legal advice it is difficult to impose an implied retainer upon the solicitor but in Caliendo v Mishcon De Reya it was held that the solicitors had assumed responsibility to the claimants and concluded that a limited duty of care existed.

Therefore, it is possible that even though you have not instructed the solicitor, the solicitor may have owed you a duty of care.

At Samuels Solicitors, based in Devon, we specialise in all forms of claims against solicitors, where a solicitor has made a mistake which has caused you loss. 

We also do our very best to support our clients when it comes to legal fees. We understand that paying costs up front can be difficult, which is why we have developed a range of flexible funding options, which can include conditional (no win no fee) agreements in strong cases. 

Contact us today for a free discussion about your case.