Solicitor rejected settlement offers without client instructions

Personal injury: Client would have rejected offers, solicitor said

A solicitor who rejected offers to settle a case without instructions from his client has been rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Gary Gray Whitaker, who was working for DAS Law in Bristol at the time in 2021, told the opposing solicitors in a personal injury case that his client had instructed him to reject both a Calderbank offer and a part 36 offer.

In fact, he had neither been instructed by his client to do this nor provided any advice to his client about the offers.

In mitigation, Mr Whitaker said his conduct did not cause any actual impact or loss as his client “later advised him that he did not wish to accept either offer”.

Further, the solicitor was experiencing “difficult personal circumstances at the time of his conduct which may have affected his judgment and conduct”.

The SRA said he had a clean regulatory history up to this point and there was “a low risk of repetition”.

A rebuke was appropriate because “Mr Whitaker’s conduct was reckless as to the risk of harm”.

“He could have caused financial detriment to his client as there was no guarantee that his client would be awarded settlement or compensation on more favourable terms. There also existed the possibility that his client could have instructed him to accept either offer.

“Mr Whitaker removed that option. Some public sanction is therefore required to uphold public confidence in the delivery of legal services.

“As an experienced solicitor, Mr Whitaker would have been aware that he should only give information to others which is accurate and not in any way misleading. He failed to act accordingly.”

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