Forster v Outred and Co: CA 1981

A mother signed a mortgage deed charging her property to H as security for a loan to her son. She claimed the solicitor had been negligent in his advice. The solicitor replied that the claim was out of time. The loss accrued not when demand for payment was made, but when she signed the mortgage deed.
Held: The cause of action was complete when the mother relied on the solicitor’s negligent advice and acted to her detriment by signing the deed. ‘Actual damage suffered’ so as to give rise to a claim in tort, and to begin the limitation period, is any detriment, liability or loss capable of assessment in money terms and includes liability which may arise on a contingency.
Dunn LJ said: ‘As soon as she executed the mortgage the plaintiff not only became liable under its express terms but also – and more importantly – the value of the equity of redemption of her property was reduced. Before she executed the mortgage deed she owned the property free from incumbrances; thereafter she became the owner of a property subject to a mortgage. That, in my view, was a quantifiable loss and as from that date her cause of action against her solicitor was complete. The actual quantum of damages would, of course, depend on events between that date and the date when the damages had finally to be assessed, but the cause of action was complete when she executed the mortgage, without proof of special damage.’
Stephenson LJ asked: ‘What is meant by actual damage? Mr Stuart-Smith says that it is any detriment, liability or loss capable of assessment in money terms and it includes liabilities which may arise on a contingency, particularly a contingency over which the plaintiff has no control; things like loss of earning capacity, loss of a chance or bargain, loss of profit, losses incurred from onerous provisions or covenants in leases. They are all illustrations of a kind of loss which is meant by ‘actual’ damage. It was also suggested in argument, and I would accept it, that ‘actual’ is really used in contrast to ‘presumed’ or ‘assumed.’ Whereas damage is presumed in trespass and libel, it is not presumed in negligence and has to be proved. There has to be some actual damage.’
He concluded: ‘Although there is no more direct authority than those cases among those which have been cited to us, I would accept Mr. Stuart-Smith’s statement of the law and would conclude that, on the facts of this case, the plaintiff has suffered actual damage through the negligence of her solicitors by entering into the mortgage deed, the effect of which has been to encumber her interest in her freehold estate with this legal charge and subject her to a liability which may, according to matters completely outside her control, mature into financial loss – as indeed it did. It seems to me that the plaintiff did suffer actual damage in those ways; and subject to that liability and with that encumbrance on the mortgage property was then entitled to claim damages, not, I would think, an indemnity and probably not a declaration, for the alleged negligence of the solicitor which she alleges caused her that damage. In those circumstances her cause of action was complete on February 8, 1973, and the writ which she issued on March 25, 1980, was issued too late to come within the six years’ period of limitation.’

Stephenson LJ, Dunn LJ
[1982] 1 WLR 86
England and Wales
Cited by:
ApprovedNykredit Mortgage Bank Plc v Edward Erdman Group Ltd (No 2) HL 27-Nov-1997
A surveyor’s negligent valuation had led to the plaintiff obtaining what turned out to be inadequate security for his loan. A cause of action against a valuer for his negligent valuation arises when a relevant and measurable loss is first recorded. . .
CitedHatton v Messrs Chafes (A Firm) CA 13-Mar-2003
The defendant firm appealed against a refusal to strike out the claimant’s claim for professional negligence, asserting that the judge should have considered the limitation issue in the light of Khan v Falvey.
Held: By the time that the . .
ConsideredUBAF Ltd v European American Banking Corporation CA 1984
The defendant invited the plaintiff to take part in a syndicated loan. The defendant’s assistant secretary signed a letter to the plaintiff making representations, now claimed to be fraudulent. The defendant succeeded at first instance arguing that . .
CitedDaniels v Thompson CA 18-Mar-2004
The executor brought an action against the solicitor who had advised his client in connection with the transfer of her house in which she was to continue to live, saying he should have advised her that the gift would not protect her from Inheritance . .
AppliedMilton v Walker and Stanger 1981
The plaintiff instructed her solicitor to prepare documents and advise on a gift from P’s uncle to P and her cousin W in the proportions 2/3:1/3. P and W agreed that, should the farm be sold, the costs and capital gains tax (CGT) arising there from . .
CitedBaker v Ollard and Bentley CA 12-May-1982
The plaintiff and a Mr and Mrs Bodman agreed to buy a house. The plaintiff intended to live on the first floor and the Bodmans on the ground floor. The solicitor should have advised them to convey the freehold into their joint names and then to . .
CitedD W Moore and Co Ltd v Ferrier CA 1988
The company took in a new director and shareholder, and relied upon their solicitors to draft a covenant to restrain him competing within a set time of leaving the company. The covenant turned out to be ineffective. The defendant solicitors replied . .
CitedBell v Peter Browne and Co CA 1990
Mr Bell asked his solicitors to transfer the matrimonial home into his wife’s sole name. He was to receive a one-sixth interest of the gross proceeds on a sale. His interests were to be protected by a trust deed or mortgage. The solicitor drafted . .
CitedKnapp v Ecclesiastical Insurance Group Plc and Another CA 30-Oct-1997
A claim in negligence was brought against insurance brokers for failing to advise the claimant of certain matters with the result that an insurance policy entered into by the claimant was voidable for non-disclosure.
Held: The claimant . .
FollowedD W Moore and Co Ltd v Ferrier CA 1988
The company took in a new director and shareholder, and relied upon their solicitors to draft a covenant to restrain him competing within a set time of leaving the company. The covenant turned out to be ineffective. The defendant solicitors replied . .
CitedThe Law Society v Sephton and Co and others CA 13-Dec-2004
The Society appealed dismissal for limitation of its claim against the defendant firm of accountants arising from alleged fraud in approval of a solicitor’s accounts.
Held: The liability did not arise until the Society decided to make . .
DistinguishedTelfair Shipping Operation SA v Inersea Carriers SA, the Caroline P 1984
A claim was made in contract based on an indemnity.
Held: The claim was not time-barred. Time normally begins to run against a claim on a general indemnity only from the moment when the liability of the indemnified is accepted by him or . .
CitedRobert Mark Gordon v J B Wheatley and Co (a Firm) CA 24-May-2000
The defendant solicitors had negligently advised the claimant in connection with a mortgage scheme he operated for customers. His case was that the defendants had negligently failed to advise him to register under s3 of the 1986 Act. The claimant . .
CitedPirelli General Cable Works v Oscar Faber and Partners HL 2-Jan-1983
The plaintiff asked the defendant consulting engineer to design an extension to their factory in 1969. Not later than in April 1970, cracks developed in the chimney. In 1977 the cause of the damage was discovered. It arose from design faults in the . .
CitedAbbott and Another v Will Gannon and Smith Ltd CA 2-Mar-2005
The claimant had employed the defendants to design refurbishment works for their hotel. The work was said to be negligent, and the claimant sought damages. The defendant argued as a preliminary point that the claim was time barred. The question was . .
CitedIqbal v Legal Services Commission CA 10-May-2005
The claimant had been a partner in a firm of solicitors. They came to be suspected by the respondent of overclaiming legal aid payments and sums were withheld. For this and other reasons the practice folded, and the claimant became insolvent. He . .
CitedHaward and others v Fawcetts HL 1-Mar-2006
The claimant sought damages from his accountants, claiming negligence. The accountants pleaded limitation. They had advised him in connection with an investment in a company which investment went wrong.
Held: It was argued that the limitation . .
RejectedWardley Australia Ltd v Western Australia 1992
(High Court of Australia) A claim was based on a statutory trade indemnity scheme. The insurers claimed damages from Wardley, on the basis that its alleged deceit induced them to grant an indemnity, which was subsequently called on.
Held: . .
CitedLaw Society v Sephton and Co (a Firm) and Others HL 10-May-2006
A firm of solicitors had a member involved in a substantial fraud. The defendant firm of accountants certified the firm’s accounts. There were later many calls upon the compensation fund operated by the claimants, who sought recovery in turn from . .
CitedFirst National Comercial Bank plc v Humberts CA 27-Jan-1995
The plaintiff loaned money on the basis of a negligent survey by the defendant. The borrower subsequently defaulted, and the lender issued a writ. The defendant said that the claim was time barred.
Held: The court allowed the plaintiff’s . .
CitedWatkins and Another v Jones Maidment Wilson (A Firm) CA 4-Mar-2008
The claimants alleged professional negligence by the defendant solicitors in advising them to agree to a postponment of a completion. The defendants raised as a preliminary issue the question of limitation. The claimant said that the limitation . .
CitedTabarrok v E D C Lord and Co (A Firm) CA 14-Feb-1997
The appellant wanted to open a pizza restaurant. He and his partners acquired a company for the purpose, which was to take a lease of premises. They sought advice from the defendants who, they said, failed to advise them of the need to be aware of . .
CitedPegasus Management Holdings Sca and Another v Ernst and Young (A Firm) and Another ChD 11-Nov-2008
The claimants alleged professional negligence in advice given by the defendant on a share purchase, saying that it should have been structured to reduce Capital Gains Tax. The defendants denied negligence and said the claim was statute barred.
CitedBowling and Co Solicitors v Edehomo ChD 2-Mar-2011
The court was asked ‘when an innocent vendor whose signature is forged on the documents for the conveyance of land suffers damage, for the purposes of limitation of an action arising from a solicitor’s breach of duty. Is it on the exchange of . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Limitation, Damages, Professional Negligence

Leading Case

Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.179760