Professional Negligence and Expert Evidence
When bringing a claim of professional negligence, it will usually be the case that expert evidence is required so that there is some form of "expert input" to support the allegations of negligence. However, in the 2012 case of ACD (Landscape Architects) Limited v. Overall and Another, the High Court indicated that expert evidence should not be regarded as essential in all cases involving professional negligence.
In this particular case, the Claimant Architect prepared a report on a property in respect of which the Defendants were seeking planning permission. A dispute ensued and the Architect issued proceedings for unpaid fees. The Defendants counterclaimed and asserted that the Architect had been negligent in preparing his report. They said that if the Architect had prepared the report properly, the application for planning permission would have succeeded. The Architect applied to strike out the counterclaim, saying that this was unsupported by expert evidence. Ultimately, the Defendants served expert evidence and the application for strike out was withdrawn. However, in considering the costs of the application, the High Court commented that there was no immutable rule that professional negligence could not be pleaded unless and until a claimant had secured supporting expert evidence. The Court noted that it was important to give effect to the Overriding Objective and that where some cases of professional negligence are concerned, expert evidence will not be required. For example, it may be disproportionate in terms of costs for expert evidence to be produced. Other relevant factors will include the value of the claim and whether there is a reasonable prospect of settling the claim, in which case it may be appropriate to delay the production of expert evidence until a later stage in the proceedings.
This decision provides parties to professional negligence claims with helpful guidance on the extent to which expert evidence will be required.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.