The site has been created by sons of two elderly former partners of the architectural practice Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall & Partners (now known as RMJM) in collaboration with Ian Leach of BLM Solicitors – the solicitor who successfully fought the case brought against them for damages.
The site is a response to the absence of readily available information on how the law works, where to go to find insurance, what sort of specialist legal advice to get or who the specialists in the field are. Our hope is that reference to it will save others the time, effort and cost that we wasted for want of a basic understanding about how to react if you receive a summons out of the blue, as we did.
In essence the lesson we learned was that the law in these cases is complex and in some aspects not what you would expect. In particular, the transfer of liabilities to new directors or partners or the sale of partnerships or companies does not necessarily protect retired principals from writs. Also, the statute of limitations is complicated.
The circumstances of each individual case will be unique and overwhelmingly our advice would be to get yourself a specialist lawyer, one with a track record of defending similar claims – and some solicitors and barristers specialise in nothing else. It is not just that the law is complicated, it is also a factor that solicitors acting for your pursuers need to know they are dealing with experts. Like it or not, the process of resolving these claims is an adversarial one and as most claims are settled out of court, defenders need robust and skilled advocates working on their behalf.
Our case should also serve as a reminder to all practicing architects that the insurance industry cannot necessarily be relied upon to keep a record of historic policies, and to check for copies of Employers’ and Public Liability as well as Professional Indemnity Insurance certificates for all past years of practice. Such claims are usually dealt with by EL/PL insurers but difficulties can arise when claims are intimated against individuals, where the employing company no longer exists, where there was no insurance cover in place or (as in our case) where the insurance cannot be traced.