White v Jones – 1995

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White v Jones [1995] 2 AC 207

Considers professional negligence and the circumstances in which a third party can bring a claim on such grounds.

Facts

A man, Mr White, wished to change his will so as to leave £9000 for the benefit of his two daughters, who he had chosen to exclude at the point of his will’s initial drafting. His solicitor was the defendant, Mr Jones, who received Mr White’s request but took a sizable time to actually implement it. In this time period, Mr White passed away and the will remained unchanged. Subsequently, Mr White’s daughters, the claimants, brought an action against the defendant, contending the amount of time it took for him to fulfill the request amounted to professional negligence and attempting to claim the amount that they would have received had the will been altered.

Issue

Could a professional person be liable for negligence to another person with whom they had no direct contractual relationship or responsibility.

Held

The House of Lords found 3-2 for the claimants, determining that Mr Jones’s negligent behavior did provide grounds for a claim by others, even where no prior contractual or fiduciary relationship existed. The Court applied the three part test stated in Caparo Industries v Dickman [1990] UKHL 2), finding that the loss caused by Mr Jones’s delay was reasonably foreseeable, that a sufficiently proximate relationship could be identified between Mr White’s daughters and Mr Jones, and lastly that it would be fair, just and reasonable for liability to be imposed.

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