High Court throws out £55m claim against law firms

High Court: Baseless allegations

A businessman who brought a claim against two leading law firms, and also reported them and those representing them to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has seen his case struck out.

The High Court held the negligence and breach of duty claim, worth £55m, was an abuse of process.

Deputy Master Linwood said Banner Universal Motion Pictures (BUMP) had made “baseless allegations” against Fox Williams and Wiggin – including to the SRA – and asked for the case against them to be marked as totally without merit.

The High Court heard that Mr Banner, director of BUMP, had instructed Fox Williams to make claims for copyright infringement, breach of confidence and passing off against three large media companies, represented by Wiggin.

The claims related to a TV game Minute Winner, which the company argued was its creation and intellectual property, infringed by another TV game in Sweden, Minute to Win It.

Mr Justice Snowden dismissed the claims in 2016, concluding that they were not “sustainable on any basis” – estoppel also applied as a Swedish court had rejected substantially the same claim in 2014.

Deputy Master Linwood said: “Mr Banner was and is clearly very upset and angered by what he regarded as the theft of his intellectual property.

“He therefore turned his ire upon his previous solicitors and the solicitors representing the successful three defendants.”

Later he “extended his ire” to all those possibly involved “in any respect”, complaining to the SRA not only about individual lawyers at Fox Williams and Wiggin, but about those at the law firms defending them against the negligence claim, RPC and Browne Jacobson respectively.

BUMP made claims against Fox Williams of professional negligence, breach of the retainer agreement and breach of duty of care. BUMP’s claims against Wiggin included breach of duty over alleged disclosure failures.

Deputy Master Linwood said the company claimed against both Wiggins and Fox Williams the same remedy, namely £40m in lost royalties, plus £10m damages and £5m loss of future revenues, a total of £55m.

While “prolix and substantial in word count”, the judge described BUMP’s pleadings as “unreasonably vague, especially in terms of the way causation and loss and damage are pleaded, if they are at all”.

There was “no prospect” at trial of the court finding that Fox Williams was in breach of its contractual or tortious duties, while evidence that BUMP said the firm should have put before the court would not have made any difference to the outcome of the proceedings.

“Likewise, making an application for specific disclosure and/or not proceeding under the shorter trial scheme would not have affected the outcome in that neither were a breach of contract, nor were they negligent; nor could they have caused loss to the claimant.”

There was, the judge said, “a real risk that Fox Williams will incur unnecessary expense in defending these allegations if this claim continues” and, as the claimant was a dormant company, the law firm would not be able to recover its costs.

Wiggin was in an even stronger position as it did not owe BUMP any duties. “In the absence of any duty there is nothing that can be breached, although if Wiggin had not disclosed documents it should have done to the opposing party or to the court, Wiggin may have been in breach of its duty to its clients or the court. But that is not the position here.”

BUMP had made “baseless allegations against Fox Williams, their solicitors RPC, as well as Wiggin, their solicitors Browne Jacobson, and individuals in those firms. Those allegations, which have no merit in them, should not be allowed to stand”.

Deputy Master Linwood said there was “no factual or evidential underpinning” for any of the allegations Mr Banner had made to the SRA in “what can only be described as a campaign” against the law firms.

“I am therefore satisfied that due to the vexatious nature of the claimant’s case I will strike it out as an abuse of process.”

The judge said that, in any case, the claims were out of time under the Limitation Act.

He awarded over £110,000 in costs against BUMP on an indemnity basis, telling the defendants’ lawyers than when they submitted orders for approval to “please include a paragraph that the case was totally without merit against Fox Williams and also against Wiggin, as it was wholly devoid of merit and was abusive”.

NOTE: The story was amended to reflect a misunderstanding that the value of the claim was actually £55m, rather than £110m as originally stated.

    Readers Comments

  • BUMP says:

    The claim value of the case is not £110m but £55m owed jointly and severally by both defendants. The case is pending appeal permission for false statements, bias, discrimination, judge’s breach on impartiality. A formal complaint is filed both to the court and to the JCIO regarding Judge’s false statement regarding perjury evidence.
    There are far more serious facts in this case with potentially far more serious consequences than what is being reported.

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