Doing a "friend" a favour with a snippet of advice could be costly where you are a professional.
The favour requires you to exercise your expertise and you must remember your friend is placing their trust in you.
Take this case in which the Court of Appeal made its rulings last Friday.
A married couple owned a house in North London and wanted their garden landscaped.
They had received a quote for around £175K so we aren't talking about messing around with a pond and some daisies.
A good friend and American qualified architect came to their aid.
She would act as an architect and project manager on the job and organise other landscapers for the couple.
No charge! But and it was a big but - she intended to provide design work such as lighting and planting after the heavier work had been done. In the past, the couple had helped her out.
The project turned sour.
The couple became unhappy with the quality and progress of the work and the architect's involvement was brought to an end.
The couple sued the architect for damages, claiming that she was responsible for some of the things that had gone wrong.
The architect denied she was legally responsible for anything.
A county court trial judge gave a judgment on preliminary legal issues in favour of the couple.
The architect appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal decided that the architect did owe the couple a duty of care even though she was not being paid for the services which were under attack by the couple.
If someone possesses a special skill and undertakes to apply that skill for the assistance of another person who relies on it, a legal duty of care to that other person will be established.
It matters not that there is no contract as such between them.
It is a situation that is akin to contact.
If that someone was being paid, it would be a contract.
This case matches another we had when running the compliance for the Financial Network (now Tavistock Financial) about ten years ago.
And that concerned another architect too!
The local architect in Cheltenham refused on three occasions to enter into a terms of business with an IFA who worked for us.
So far so good, but while refusing politely to enter into a contract the architect asked
“what shall I do with my maturing pension”? (on a fax)
To which our IFA replied (with a scribble on the same fax)
“well if you don’t need it, leave it where it is – but really we need to meet as per the client agreement sent to you”
That one cost us £17,500 since the architect's failure to take the annuity offered ended all their rights to the Scottish Widows guaranteed annuity rates (old style s226)
So the next time you are at the bar of the pub adding your pennies worth to the local know all, remember that your profession come with responsibilities.
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