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Civil

Chris’s Civil Cases

Here are some civil cases Chris has dealt with:

Shareholder & Partnership Disputes

Case 1 – Why Not Mediate?

Chris has often acted as expert for one party or another in such matters, including the tracing and evaluation of diverted trade. With one such case, the hearing went part heard three times and costs escalated. Towards the end, the judge spoke very sternly, “over the heads of your lawyers directly to you two sensible businessmen who used to be friends”, urging them to ask for help from a mediator. They would not listen. Afterwards, Chris spoke to the other expert, a friend who was also a mediator, saying that he had been encouraging his side to mediate, but been told that the other side would not consider it. “Funny, that” said Chris’s friend; “that’s exactly what my side have been saying about your lawyers…”

Case 2 – The Stolen Accountancy Practice

In a partnership case, an accountant had left his firm suddenly and taken clients and staff. Chris was appointed SJE to quantify the diverted profits and the value of goodwill, work in progress etc. He interviewed both sides, and established a good rapport with all concerned.

In a teleconference he explained to lawyers on both sides that this dispute could probably be settled if he were allowed to mediate it. The lawyers were interested, but feared that they would have to appoint another expert if mediation were to fail. So, again at Chris’s suggestion, he was appointed expert determiner, and so the case was brought to an end at modest cost.

Insurance Claims – Who Torched The Fleet?

An insurer will be interested to learn whether there were signs of strain in a business, which might have induced the owner to set fire to the premises.

Chris dealt with the case of a transport contractor who attempted to “torch” his fleet of 22 lorries and his Porsche on New Year’s Eve, but his claim failed on two counts: the wind was blowing the wrong way and he lost only two trucks; and late disclosure of his bank manager’s file showed that he had told that manager, shortly before the fire, that an expected insurance claim would solve his cash flow difficulties! It is seldom so easy to avoid a claim, but careful review of the finances of a business before a fire is often “illuminating”.

Business Interruption & Consequential Loss

This is a major part of Chris’s work, acting for the claimant, the defendant/insurer, or as SJE. Whether caused by a factory fire, blocked access to business premises, theft of a customer list, death or injury of the “rainmaker”, or any other cause, he is required to quantify the “would have been” but for the interruption.

He does this by careful examination of the performance of the business before the event, and review of comparable businesses and other factors to express his opinion. He has been complimented on his clarity of thought and opinions, by judges and those instructing him, on many occasions.

Product Liability – The Faulty Platen 

A claimant company contended that Chris’s client’s tool, a set of blades in a cutting platen, was faulty and had caused loss of profit of £330,000. By careful review of the production records, Chris was able to demonstrate that losses had been caused by many other factors – no materials, no labour, no power, routine shutdown for maintenance, etc.

The loss from downtime caused by the faulty tool actually only amounted to £105, which was 0.132% of the amount claimed! As soon as Chris’s report was disclosed, the claimant abandoned the claim and paid all the defendant’s costs.

Intellectual Property – Arresting The Supermarket Trolley

Chris’s client had invented and patented a system, which prevented customers from stealing trolleys from supermarkets. It was licensed to another company, who planned to sell the business thereby created.

That company alleged that the inventor, in meetings with the potential purchasers, had given away technical secrets which caused the sale to fail, and they sued for the £6 million, which they said they would have received in the sale. Chris found the flaws in the claimant’s arguments, and gave expert evidence that mainly comprised an explanation of how a company is valued.

After the hearing but before judgment, the case settled with the claimants abandoning the claim and paying virtually all the defendant/inventor’s costs, he agreeing to pass the business to them. But the product by now was obsolete, and the inventor has since invented a different system for securing supermarket trolleys. I guess he won!

Director Disqualification – Carecraft

These require careful handling. There is pressure from the authorities to accept a shorter ban, under Carecraft Construction, but that is dangerous for directors who are professionals, particularly Chartered Accountants, since the professional’s disciplinary body will inevitably also take action against that director.

Chris can help in these difficult cases as expert, and he is also an honorary confidential counselor who helps Chartered Accountants with such ethical and disciplinary problems.

Chris has acted as expert for several such directors, but it has to be said that the risk of losing and paying the authorities’ costs, or of risking so much for a shortened ban, is usually not worthwhile. Chris’s article on this topic – Are You an Unfit Director? – is available free on request.

Taxation Advocacy – The Chicken Shacks

Chris’s client had the unenviable task of cleaning out the huts from mass chicken production, as each mature batch went for slaughter. He engaged operatives on a freelance basis who contended, when the tax bills came in, that they were employees, which would thus have passed the tax liability back to Chris’s client.

The client could not afford legal representation, so Chris took witness statements, agreed skeleton openings with inspectors from HMRC Technical Division, and represented the client at a full day’s hearing before the General Commissioners. They found that the operatives were self-employed, which saved the client tax and NIC of £165,000.

Professional Standards

Chris is familiar with the Bolam test, and has often given expert evidence on the standard one can expect from the reasonably competent accountant. He is a Support Member (confidential counselor) for Chartered Accountants with ethical problems, and advises on ICAEW disciplinary procedures (and how to avoid them!)

Personal Injury, Clinical Negligence and Loss Of Dependency

Over the last twenty years, Chris has acted in hundreds of PI cases, large and small. On average over the last five years, he has acted 50% for claimants, 30% for defendants and 20% as SJE. Acting for claimants, his figures are mostly accepted even after detailed review by the other side, but when acting for defendants he has often made significant savings.

Case 1 – The Selby Rail Disaster

When Gary Hart feel asleep at the wheel of his Land Rover, going off the M62 onto the East Coast main line and colliding with the InterCity from Newcastle and a goods train, it caused the most expensive claim ever to be met by Fortis. Chris acted for the dependents of five high earning men who were killed in first class that fateful day.

Case 2 – The Human Dynamo

Chris acted for a claimant with a “portfolio” career. He farmed 180 acres, employing no hired help. He ran a plant hire business, being the sole JCB and crane operator. He had converted farm cottages for rent. He was converting a second group of disused farm outbuildings to create a science park for rent, the first group being fully occupied. And he was converting the family’s Grade II listed mansion, having stripped it to the bare walls. He had spent so much time on such property improvements that his annual accounts showed only a modest profit.

The defence expert accountant contended that such accounts formed the basis of the multiplicand. Chris disagreed. In his opinion, the claimant should be provided with a lump sum to employ a labourer to do all the heavy work, which he could no longer do.

“Buy him a man” and the status quo ante would be restored, said Chris, following Livingstone -v- Rawyards Coal Co [1880] 5 App Cas 25,39 (Per Lord Blackburn: “…the principle of the law is that compensation should as near as possible put the party who has suffered in the same position as he would have been in if he had not suffered the wrong.”). At trial, the judge agreed Chris’s approach, and agreed his multiplicand to the penny.

Hopefully these case studies show you how Chris uses his expertise to provide creative solutions to each case.

 

Contact Chris to discuss further options and details on how he can help.

This was an extremely satisfying outcome to this long running dispute.


Forensic Accounting

Mediation

Expert Determination

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What Others Are Saying

I was very impressed by the way this case was resolved.