People do business with people they like

A recent case in tried in the Technology and Construction Court has highlighted why it is important that professionals draw a firm distinction between offering brief ad hoc advice to friends in a social manner and the more detailed informal opinion and specific advice which should be reserved for paying clients.

In the case Burgess and another v Lejonvarn 2016, a professional consultant had been helping her friends, Mr and Mrs Burgess re-design and landscape their back garden by providing some design and project management services. The professional consultant had not asked her friends for payment although she may have planned to charge later, for more involved work.

The friendship between Mr and Mrs Burgess and Ms Lejonvarn faltered after the Burgesses became concerned about the cost and quality of the landscape project. The Burgesses then submitted a legal claim valued at £265,000.

The court confirmed that despite the absence of a written contract, Ms Lejonvarn owed a duty of care in tort which covered much of the work that she carried out and that although she had not charged for her services, she could be liable for the amount of the claim which was the value of the remedial works now required by Mr and Mrs Burgess.

Commercial Solicitor Matthew Fretten comments, "The case gives just one example of why professionals should treat their friends as they would their most valued client, being transparent about fees and expectations and ensuring that the correct paperwork is put in place. Done correctly, working for friends can lead to excellent testimonials, done badly it can lead to court action, loss of reputation and loss of friendship."

Our Commercial Team, based in Christchurch, also cover Bournemouth, Poole and the New Forest. For a free initial chat, please call 01202 499255 and Matthew or a member of the team will be happy to discuss any questions that you may have.