Legal Ombudsman fights off JR of refusal to uphold complaint

Kerb: Incident dated back 18 years 

The High Court has dismissed a judicial review of a decision by the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) to reject a complaint about a law firm made 18 years after the service was provided.

Karen Ridge, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, said that although Catherine Alexander had not brought the case on a vexatious basis, it was totally without merit.

Ms Alexander completed a house purchase in 2004 using Stockport firm Stevenson Glassey.

An allowance of £500 was made against the £52,000 purchase price in relation to work needed to provide a dropped kerb. Whilst the purchase priced remained at £52,000, and was recorded as such at the Land Registry, the seller agreed to accept £51,500.

Ms Alexander complained to the law firm in February 2022 that she had actually paid £52,000 and been led to believe she would receive the £500 when she had the works done and submitted a receipt. But she said it was never paid.

Stevenson Glassey rejected her complaint and she referred the matter to LeO, which did likewise.

Judge Ridge noted that whilst Ms Alexander’s statement of facts contained the draft completion statement, Stevenson Glassey had provided the final version, which made it clear that she paid £51,500.

Though Ms Alexander relied on a letter from the estate agents confirming that the vendor had agreed to contribute £500 “subject to sight of a receipt from the council”, LeO determined that the evidence showed there was no price reduction but that only £51,500 had been paid.

The judge said: “It is not remotely arguable that the procedure adopted by the ombudsman in investigating the complaint was unfair. The investigation was thorough and provided each party with several opportunities to put their points.

“The reasoning in the outcome letter is clear and intelligible and there are full reasons given. It is not arguable that relevant considerations were not taken into account or that the decision arrived at is one which no reasonable decision maker could have come to.”

There was no arguable error of law or procedure and it was not for the court “to act as a court of appeal on the merits of the complaint”.

Asked by LeO to certify the claim as totally without merit, Judge Ridge said: “I accept that Ms Alexander has not brought the case on a abusive or vexatious basis.

“However, the papers do not disclose any reasonable cause of action and the claim was bound to fail even with generous interpretation and bearing in mind that Ms Alexander is a litigant in person. I therefore certify that the claim is totally without merit.”

She also ordered Ms Alexander to pay LeO £2,059 as the costs of preparing the acknowledgment of service.

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