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Cannock Chase DC has warded off a£100,000 damages claim by a firm of Telford solicitors who say a council official...
Cannock Chase DC has warded off a£100,000 damages claim by a firm of Telford solicitors who say a council official gave them wrong advice which they acted on and then ended up being sued by a client.

The court of appeal ruled that the council was not liable to solicitors Clarke Hayes, for what happened.

The case centred on a property deal in which Clarke Hayes acted for Fashion Brokers Ltd in the acquisition of the lease of premises in Cannock for use as a wholesale and retail clothing outlet.

As the company wanted the deal to go through quickly the solicitors went ahead with the completion of the lease after phoning the council's planning department and obtaining an assurance there would be no planning objections.

However, it later turned out that the assurance was wrong and as a result Fashion Brokers sued Clarke Hayes for damages for negligence. The claim was settled for£100,000 before the case got to court but the solicitors then sought indemnity from the council in respect of the£100,000.

But a high court judge rejected that claim, finding that the council was not liable for what happened.

That decision was upheld by three of the country's top judges in the court of appeal. Counsel for Clarke Hayes, John Stevenson, had argued that the high court was wrong to hold that the solicitors had acted negligently in relying on the assurance given by the council's planning officer.

But in dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Gage said that it was not reasonable for the solicitors to have rung up the council and then to have relied on information given by an unidentified person after a two-minute conversation.

The dangers of relying on oral replies was self evident. There had been nothing to prevent the solicitors from having the information properly authenticated by fax before going ahead with the completion, he said.

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