Johnson v Gore Wood and Co (a Firm): CA 12 Nov 1998

The claimant had previously issued a claim against the defendant solicitors through his company. He now sought to pursue a claim in his own name. It was resisted as an abuse of process, and on the basis that no personal duty of care was owed to the claimant. The defendants appealed orders against them. They knew that he had personally guaranteed the borrowings of the company.
Held: It was arguable that the plaintiff had a general retainer with the defendants, and that they had duties to him over and above those to the company. Double recovery remained a problem, and the case law unclear. That was enough to say the plaintiff’s case was arguable. As to abuse, the first proceedings had been settled by compromise. Each case depends upon its own facts. The plaintiff had also been in control of the first proceedings. The plaintiff’s appeal against a strike out for abuse of process failed.


Lord Justice Nourse, Lord Justice Ward And Lord Justice Mantell


[1998] EWCA Civ 1763, [1999] BCC 474


England and Wales


CitedMidland Bank Trust Co Ltd v Hett Stubbs and Kemp (a firm) ChD 1978
A solicitor had failed to register an option as a land charge over property. The court was asked what steps should have been taken by a solicitor in the conduct of a claim: ‘Mr Harman [leading counsel for the plaintiff] sought to rely upon the fact . .
CitedR P Howard Ltd and Witchell v Woodman Matthews and Co (a firm) 1983
The solicitor defendant knew that the company was a family company effectively run by Mr Witchell from whom they received their instructions. The question raised was as to the duty of the solicitor to company and director.
Held: There is no . .
CitedVerderame v Commercial Union Assurance Co Plc CA 2-Apr-1992
The insurance brokers, acting to arrange insurance for a small private limited company did not owe a duty in tort to the directors of that company personally. Where an action was brought in a tort and in breach of contract, damages could not be . .
CitedFoss v Harbottle 25-Mar-1843
Company alone may sue for legal wrong against it.
A bill was lodged by two of the proprietors of shares in a company incorporated by Act of Parliament, on their own and the other shareholders’ behalf. They claimed against three bankrupt directors, a proprietor, solicitor and architect charging them . .
CitedPrudential Assurance Co Ltd v Newman Industries Ltd (No 2) CA 1982
A plaintiff shareholder cannot recover damages merely because the company in which he has an interest has suffered damage. He cannot recover a sum equal to the diminution in the market value of his shares, or equal to the likely diminution in . .
Not followedChristensen v Scott 1996
(New Zealand Court of Appeal) Thomas J said: ‘the diminution in the value of Mr and Mrs Christensen’s shares in the company is by definition a personal loss and not a corporate loss. The loss suffered by the company is the loss of the lease and the . .
CitedHenderson v Henderson 20-Jul-1843
Abuse of Process and Re-litigation
The court set down the principles to be applied in abuse of process cases, where a matter was raised again which should have been dealt with in earlier proceedings.
Sir James Wigram VC said: ‘In trying this question I believe I state the rule . .

Cited by:

CitedRatiu, Karmel, Regent House Properties Ltd v Conway CA 22-Nov-2005
The claimant sought damages for defamation. The defendant through their company had accused him acting in such a way as to allow a conflict of interest to arise. They said that he had been invited to act on a proposed purchase but had used the . .
Appeal fromJohnson v Gore Wood and Co HL 14-Dec-2000
Shareholder May Sue for Additional Personal Losses
A company brought a claim of negligence against its solicitors, and, after that claim was settled, the company’s owner brought a separate claim in respect of the same subject-matter.
Held: It need not be an abuse of the court for a shareholder . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Legal Professions, Litigation Practice

Updated: 30 May 2022; Ref: scu.145242