Medical negligence claimant wins compensation for negligent legal advice
Paul Wright, aged 70 from Essex, pursued a legal claim for medical negligence following an operation during which three plastic bags were left inside his body, resulting in life changing injuries and permanent disability.
Mr Wright instructed the company Troy Lucas, which described itself as a ‘litigation firm’ which was “as good as, if not better, than any solicitor or barrister.” He believed the firm to be a credible litigation firm, and the firm said its expertise came from qualified legal advisers, which it did not. The advice was however given in the capacity of a McKenzie Friend, which is essentially a person that you bring to court to help you as a Litigant in Person. That person can be a friend, family member or someone from a voluntary or paid service. They sit with you in court and can provide advice and help with taking notes etc. It is an option that is often used by someone who does not have access to legal aid and perhaps cannot afford legal representation.
In this case, the advice provided by George Rusz of Troy Lucas was judged to be negligent, having made spurious applications for disclosure and failing to comply with court orders. He did not engage the services of a barrister and sought over-inflated sums of compensation without submitting evidence to support the figures sought. His conduct during the claim was found to be responsible for causing a series of adverse costs orders to be made against Mr Wright. The trust admitted liability in 2011 and the claim was settled for £20,000, however Mr Wright had to contribute £75,000 to their legal costs because of the manner in which Mr Rusz had handled the case.
The High Court ruled that the negligent advice of George Rusz and his company had meant that Mr Wright could only pursue a part of his medical negligence claim and was also facing a huge legal costs bill. It held that £263,759 compensation should be paid by the company to Mr Wright to reflect what he would have received if the claim was conducted properly, as well as £73,200 in costs. The company was held to the standards of a competent legal advisor, because of the way they had represented their service and expertise, thereby increasing their liability for negligent advice compared to a traditional McKenzie friend.
The case highlights the importance of accessing expert legal advice when it comes to clinical negligence and other compensation claims, though is equally applicable to all areas of law.