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In what the Court describes as a “cautionary tale” a professional consultant had performed various gratuitous services relating to her friend’s landscape gardening project.  The project did not go smoothly, the relationship broke down and her former friend claimed for the cost of the remedial work.

The Court decided that the professional consultant:

(a)    Had no contractual liability because there had been no offer and acceptance or consideration.

(b)   However the consultant owed a duty of care in tort that covered several design and project management services.  The Court confirmed that a professional designer can owe a duty to care in respect of pure economic loss on a construction project.  They also held that such a liability is not restricted to advice given by the professional consultant but they also cover other services that it performs.

The risk of offering informal advice

This judgement highlights a risk common to any professional who offers informal advice.  However the Court emphasize that this was not a piece of brief adhoc advice of the type occasionally offered by professional people in a less formal context.

This was a significant project approached in a professional way, the services provided over a relatively long period and involving considerable commitment on both sides.  In addition, the professional consultant had hoped to receive payment for services that might be necessary later on in the project.

For advice about whether the professional services you offer to friends are legally binding, you can contact Bray & Bray. We have three main offices across Leicestershire, feel free to phone or pop in to talk to our solicitors.