A personal injury lawyer who failed to tell six clients that their claims had been struck out, instead misleading them into thinking they were active, has been struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).
The tribunal said Femida Jamali, who worked for Slater & Gordon in Manchester, told clients in two further cases that their claims were active when they had “effectively been statute barred”.
The SDT said Ms Jamali’s motivation “appeared to have been to cover her errors and her poor level of service to clients”.
She “deliberately wrote” misleading letters to clients while failing to remedy the situation, even when it was “clear that at on at least one occasion the client may have been in a position to reinstate the claim had the application been made promptly”.
The tribunal heard that Ms Jamali, admitted in 2008, worked for Slater & Gordon between May 2016 until October 2017, when she was dismissed.
The law firm reported her to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) the following month.
Client A’s road traffic accident claim was struck out in December 2016 despite a request from Ms Jamali to reallocate from the small claims track to the fast-track.
There was no evidence of Ms Jamali telling him nor applying to reinstate proceedings.
Client A called Slater & Gordon “numerous times” in May 2017, concerning what he understood to be his forthcoming hearing.
Ms Jamali told him that the case was listed for a final hearing later that month but unfortunately, “due to a technicality”, the hearing had been removed from the list and would not go ahead.
Her team leader took conduct of the file and sought counsel’s advice, who said Client A may have had a strong case to revoke the strike-out had the application been made promptly.
The solicitor took over another personal injury claim, on behalf of Clients B and C, in May 2016. This was struck out in July 2016 due to the non-attendance of the parties, after she agreed with the defence to vacate the trial.
Ms Jamali wrote to the clients, saying the hearing had to be adjourned, while creating a file note on the firm’s case management system, which said the case “had to be reinstated”.
She told the clients the same some weeks later but no application was ever made.
When acting for Clients D and E, Ms Jamali failed to comply with a court order requiring her to serve a list of documents, resulting in the claim being struck out in November 2016.
The solicitor recorded on the file in February 2017, following a phone call from the clients, that they had been updated about an application to reinstate, but again no application was made.
Client F’s claim was struck out in March 2017, following a similar episode of non-compliance with court orders. The client was ordered to pay the defendant’s costs of the entire action.
Ms Jamali responded by filing an application with the court to come off the record citing a breakdown in trust and confidence.
When the client phoned the firm the following month, Ms Jamali “did not mention the strike-out, the costs order or the application to come off the record”.
In the case of Clients G and H, the tribunal found that the solicitor had failed to advise them that their claim had been issued out of time and misled them by “perpetuating their belief that their claim remained active by telling them that she was reviewing their file”.
She was found to have acted dishonestly in relation to the first six cases, but not the last two.
The solicitor, who did not attend the hearing and was not represented, offered no mitigation.
The SDT said the main aggravating factor was her dishonesty, and the fact the misconduct was “deliberate, calculated and repeated and continued over a period of approximately 18 months”.
She was struck off and ordered to pay £36,000 in costs.