Equitable Life Assurance Society v Ernst and Young: CA 25 Jul 2003

The claimant sought damages from its accountants, saying that had they been advised of the difficulties in their financial situation, they would have been able to avoid the loss of some 2.5 billion pounds, or to sell their assets at a time when their losses could be minimalised. They appealed a judgment limiting the claim to 500 million pounds.
Held: The case should not be limited to a claim of any certain size. The issues were an an area of developing jurisprudence, and were fact dependent. In such cases a strike out was inappropriate, and the Court should not be drawn into a mini-trial of complex cases at this stage.
Brooke LJ said: ‘The overriding concern is the interests of justice. So far as facts are concerned, the simpler the case is the easier it is likely for a court to be able to take a view that the basis of a claim is fanciful or contradicted by all the documentary material on which it is founded. More complex cases are unlikely to be capable of being resolved in that way. There is a danger of injustice in seeking to try such cases summarily on the documents and thus without disclosure and oral evidence tested by cross-examination. It should not be done unless the court can be confident that all the relevant facts had already been satisfactorily investigated.’
Lord Justice Brooke Lord Justice Rix And Lord Justice Dyson
[2003] EWCA Civ 1114, Gazette 02-Oct-2003, [2003] 2 BCLC 603, [2007] Lloyds Rep PN 22, [2004] PNLR 16
England and Wales
CitedEquitable Life Assurance Society v Hyman HL 20-Jul-2000
The directors of the Society had calculated the final bonuses to be allocated to policyholders in a manner which was found to be contrary to the terms of the policy. The language of the article conferring the power to declare such bonuses contained . .
CitedThree Rivers District Council and Others v Governor and Company of The Bank of England (No 3) HL 22-Mar-2001
Misfeasance in Public Office – Recklessness
The bank sought to strike out the claim alleging misfeasance in public office in having failed to regulate the failed bank, BCCI.
Held: Misfeasance in public office might occur not only when a company officer acted to injure a party, but also . .
CitedWenlock v Moloney CA 1965
The plaintiff alleged a conspiracy to deprive him of his shares and interest in a company. Each side filed affidavit evidence raising issues of fact. With no oral evidence or cross examination on the affidavits, the Master, after a four day hearing, . .
CitedSwain v Hillman CA 21-Oct-1999
Strike out – Realistic Not Fanciful Chance Needed
The proper test for whether an action should be struck out under the new Rules was whether it had a realistic as opposed to a fanciful prospect of success. There was no justification for further attempts to explain the meaning of what are clear . .
CitedFarah and Others v Home Office, British Airways Plc and Another CA 6-Dec-1999
The applicants claimed in negligence against the Home Office after its advisers had wrongly advised the first defendants that the claimants’ travel documents were not valid. The claim was struck out, and the claimants appealed. The strike out was . .
CitedAneco Reinsurance Underwriting Limited (In Liquidation) (a Body Incorporate Under the Laws of Bermuda) v Johnson and Higgins Limited HL 18-Oct-2001
Brokers contracted to obtain re-insurance of risks undertaken by the claimants. They negligently failed to obtain full cover. The question at issue was whether they were liable for the full loss, or whether their duty was limited to obtaining . .
CitedSouth Australia Asset Management Corporation v York Montague Ltd etc HL 24-Jun-1996
Limits of Damages for Negligent Valuations
Damages for negligent valuations are limited to the foreseeable consequences of advice, and do not include losses arising from a general fall in values. Valuation is seldom an exact science, and within a band of figures valuers may differ without . .
CitedGaloo Ltd and Others v Bright Grahame Murray CA 21-Dec-1993
It is for the Court to decide whether the breach of duty was the cause of a loss or simply the occasion for it by the application of common sense. A breach of contract, to found recovery, must be shown to have been ‘an ‘effective’ or ‘dominant’ . .
CitedKitchen v Royal Air Force Association CA 1958
The plaintiff’s husband, a member of the RAF, was electrocuted and killed in the kitchen of his house. A solicitor failed to issue a writ in time and deprived the plaintiff of the opportunity to pursue court proceedings.
Held: Damages were not . .
CitedAllied Maples Group Ltd v Simmons and Simmons CA 12-May-1995
Lost chance claim – not mere speculative claim
Solicitors failed to advise the plaintiffs sufficiently in a property transaction. A warranty against liability for a former tenant’s obligations under leases had not been obtained. The trial judge held that, on a balance of probabilities, there was . .
CitedFirst Interstate Bank of California v Cohen Arnold and Co CA 11-Dec-1995
If a guarantor’s negligent accountant had not misled the bank by misrepresenting his client’s wealth, the bank would have demanded repayment of its secured loan on 30th June 1990. In the event it did not realise the true position until 17th August. . .
CitedSkipton Building Society v Stott CA 2001
The issue was whether a mortgagee had sold at an undervalue, and if so what the damages should be.
Held: In a well-developed property market where a sale is assured and the only possible issue is as to the market level, damages for loss of . .
CitedE (A Minor) v Dorset County Council CA 1995
It is generally unwise to give summary judgment in cases where the relevant law is uncertain or in a state of development: ‘This must mean that where the legal viability of a cause of action is unclear (perhaps because the law is in a state of . .
CitedCaparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others HL 8-Feb-1990
Limitation of Loss from Negligent Mis-statement
The plaintiffs sought damages from accountants for negligence. They had acquired shares in a target company and, relying upon the published and audited accounts which overstated the company’s earnings, they purchased further shares.
Held: The . .
CitedCoulthard, Ashton Shuttleworth, and Dawes v Neville Russell (a Firm) CA 27-Nov-1997
Auditors who were in a position to advise a company’s directors as to the legality of them making loan payments to a shell company which was acquiring there shares had a duty so to advise. The directors of a company sued them for failing to warn . .
CitedSasea Finance Ltd v KPMG (Formerly KPMG Peat Marwick Mclintock) ChD 10-May-2001
It was complained that the auditors had failed timeously to warn the company of fraud by a senior employee. The appeal concerned an application to strike out heads of claim in an action brought by the company against its auditors for negligence.
Cited by:
CitedWeston v Gribben ChD 20-Dec-2005
. .
CitedShah and Another v HSBC Private Bank (UK) Ltd QBD 26-Jan-2009
The claimants sought damages after delays by the bank in processing transfer requests. The bank said that the delays were made pending reports of suspected criminal activity. The bank’s delay had stigmatised the claimant causing further losses. The . .
CitedLand Securities Plc and Others v Fladgate Fielder (A Firm) CA 18-Dec-2009
The claimants wanted planning permission to redevelop land. The defendant firm of solicitors, their tenants, had challenged the planning permission. The claimants alleged that that opposition was a tortious abuse because its true purpose was to . .
CitedWebb v Macdonald and Another ChD 29-Jan-2010
Defendant barrister and solicitors applied to have the claims against them for professional negligence struck out. They had advised on a settlement of a dispute, which settlement the claimant now said was negligently wrong.
Held: The advice . .
CitedShah and Another v HSBC Private Bank (UK) Ltd CA 4-Feb-2010
Money laundering suspicion to be explained
The customer sought to sue his bank for failing to meet his cheque. The bank sought to rely on the 2002 Act, having reported suspicious activity on freezing the account. He now appealed against summary judgment given for the bank which had refused . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 08 April 2021; Ref: scu.184820