Firm loses appeal over planning negligence

An international firm has recently lost its appeal to set aside a previous judgement that ruled it had acted negligently.

When it failed to inform property developer Orientfield Holdings Ltd. of search report results, the High Court found that law firm Bird & Bird had been negligent, ruling against them in a 2015. The report at the heart of the case had contained information on a planned major development close to the £26 m property, as well numerous planning applications within a 300 m radius.

Denying that they had acted negligently, the firm appealed the High Court’s decision. Although it was found that a summary of the Plansearch report results should have been provided by Bird & Bird, the firm stated that the judge had made a “serious error”. They claimed that he had erred as to whether, even if a summary of the report had been provided, it would have indicated the proposed plans for the development.

Bird & Bird argued that the report on title had not been negligent; as the planned developments were over 100 m away from the property, it had been able to disregard them, having no duty to inform its clients.

The firms’ legal challenge was, however, dismissed by Lady Justice Gloster in a recent Court of Appeal decision.

Taking the firms’ claims into account, Gloster stated that the High Court decision could have been reached using a more methodical approach, with explicit reference to the trail of causation.

“There was perhaps some force in [Bird & Bird’s] submissions that the judgment ought to have worked through the issue of causation more methodically and explicitly, and stated expressly what information should have been provided to the respondent, what the respondent would have done, and what would then have happened”.

She did, however, contest their claim that the judge had failed to make a finding as to what the report summary should have included.

“He clearly and sufficiently considered what an appropriate summary of the Plansearch report would have revealed and his conclusion in paragraph 51 of the judgment cannot be faulted.”

Gloster went on the state that the court had no legal basis to “upset the judge’s conclusion” in relation to whether provision of the report would have alerted Orientfield Holdings to the planned development. She stated that a “non-negligent summary would have resulted in the detail of the development emerging”, dismissing Bird & Bird’s appeal.

The judgement can be accessed here.


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