A partner who lied to the litigation friend and mother of a medical negligence victim, telling her repeatedly over two and a half years that a pre-action protocol (PAP) letter had been sent when it had not, has been struck off.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) heard that when Gary Robert Williams finally did send the letter, it was “inadequate”.
He told the tribunal that he was unable to cope with the emotional demands of his work.
Mr Williams qualified in 2002 at Osborne Morris & Morgan, based in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, becoming a partner in 2006 until he left in 2019.
In an agreed statement of facts and outcome approved by the SDT, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said Mr Williams was instructed in 2011 after the case was transferred from another firm.
The client was being helped by her mother, in the role of litigation friend, in bringing a clinical negligence claim against an NHS trust.
In December 2016, counsel advised that there was sufficient merit in the case and the solicitor should proceed with the PAP letter.
Mr Williams told the client’s mother later that month that he would write it in the new year but in fact failed to do so until May 2019. During that time, he told the mother that he had sent it.
Despite being contacted by her “on numerous occasions”, the solicitor “failed to return a number of her calls”, the SRA said.
The mother complained about the delays in 2018, and in May 2019 wrote to Mr Williams “expressing her disappointment in how her case had been handled”.
The case was transferred to Irwin Mitchell later that month. Mr Williams reported his conduct to the firm, which in turn contacted the SRA.
The SRA said Mr Williams failed to act in the client’s best interests, with his conduct delaying the instruction of an expert, while he also sent an “inadequate” PAP letter.
The solicitor admitted what he had done and that he had been dishonest in misleading the mother.
In non-agreed mitigation, the former partner said he was “suffering from stress and depression” at the time, finding it difficult to manage his caseload and “unable to cope with the emotional demands of his work representing families of deceased or severely injured clients”.
Mr Williams was “ashamed” that he had been unable to progress the matter “as quickly as he would have wanted for his client” and “unable to think clearly or rationally” and said he was “deeply sorry”.
The SRA said the client’s case was “potentially adversely affected” by Mr William’s conduct in that, if it was successful, it was likely to be subject to costs deductions.
“The delay and the way it has been handled by Mr Williams is also likely to have had a negative emotional impact on the client and the litigation friend.”
The SDT said Mr Williams had “knowingly and deliberately misled” the litigation friend “for a significant period of time” as well as failing to progress the matter adequately.
The tribunal ordered that he should be struck off the roll and pay costs of £5,175.