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What is proper practice for the pleading of claims for professional negligence?

Citation: Pantelli Associates Ltd v Corporate City Developments Number Two Ltd [2010] EWHC 3189 (TCC) - 2/12/10

The Facts

Further to a compromise agreement, the Claimant (C) firm of quantity surveyors sued the Defendant (D) for unpaid fees arising out of two building projects.  D counterclaimed raising allegations of professional negligence.  An unless order required D to provide proper particulars of the allegations of negligence, causation and loss by way of an application to amend.  C objected to the proposed amendments on the grounds that D had not provided proper particulars. It was common ground that the particulars of negligence were limited to adding the words "failing to" or "failing adequately or at all to" as prefixes to various contractual obligations.

Issue:  The court considered that the application raised a "potentially important point as to the proper practice for the pleading of claims for professional negligence".

Held (Coulson J.)

The amendments made to the particulars of breach were inadequate, did not meet the test in CPR r.16.4(1)(a) and did not amount to a proper pleading of a case of professional negligence.  This was because they were generic allegations which made it impossible for C to obtain proper witness statements or expert reports to rebut.  It was standard practice that, where an allegation of professional negligence was raised, the allegation must be supported in writing by a relevant professional with the necessary expertise.  However, D had failed to obtain any form of expert evidence that the work carried out by C was in some way below the standard to be expected of an ordinarily competent quantity surveyor.  It was wrong in law and in practice to make unsupported allegations of professional negligence.  The allegations of professional negligence and the counterclaim were struck out.