Paralegal banned for discontinuing claim without instructions

Holiday sickness claim: Defendant successfully challenged discontinuance

A paralegal lied to both her client and her employer over how she handled a holiday sickness claim that she sought to discontinue without instructions.

A notice from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) yesterday said that Megan Murphy had accepted a disqualification from working in the profession under section 99 of the Legal Services Act 2007.

Non-solicitors guilty of misconduct usually have their future employment controlled by the SRA under section 43 of the Solicitors Act 1974. But there are different provisions for those who worked at ABSs, as Ms Murphy did – Bolton firm Goldman Knightley.

The notice said she worked there between September 2016 and January 2020, latterly as a trainee legal executive.

The misconduct arose from her work on a client’s holiday sickness claim against a travel company.

In October 2019, she filed a notice of discontinuance with the court, without the client’s consent or knowledge.

In response, the defendant’s solicitors applied to set the notice aside on grounds of fundamental dishonesty. This application succeeded and costs were awarded against the client; his case was struck out instead.

The following month, Ms Murphy sent the client an email which dishonestly claimed that the trial date had been vacated due a lack of judge availability.

In February 2020, when firm was investigating her mishandling of the matter, she told first a director of Goldman Knightley and then a consultant solicitor that the client had consented to her filing the notice of discontinuance

Three days later, she admitted the truth of what had happened.

The SRA said she had failed to act with honesty and integrity, and had damaged public trust and confidence in the profession.

The notice said: “Disqualification is a proportionate outcome in the public interest because it will prevent Ms Murphy from undertaking a similar role at another firm and helps maintain trust in the profession.”

In mitigation, the SRA noted that this was an isolated incident, “as confirmed by the firm after conducting an internal review of Ms Murphy’s files”, and that she fully co-operated with its investigation.

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