Area of law: Employment
Complaint reason(s): Delay, failure to advise, failure to negotiate
Remedy: To pay £100 compensation and to write off an outstanding bill of £70
Outcome: Ombudsman decision accepted by the complainant
Mrs C used a firm of solicitors to help her fight an unfair dismissal case. She believed she’d given years of loyal service to her employers, only to find herself being let go after a long and painful bout of sick leave. Mrs C’s health problems had come and gone over the years, but she had never lost more than a day’s work until then.
The solicitor started negotiating with Mrs C’s old employers and it looked like she had a good case. But then some evidence turned up which the solicitor thought would seriously weaken Mrs C’s case, so he advised her to accept an offer worth £6,000 that her old employer had made. She had to make up her mind quickly or the case would go to court. She decided to accept the money and so the hearing was cancelled.
Later on, Mrs C made a complaint. She felt the solicitor had put pressure on her to accept the offer while she was depressed and in no fit state to make a decision. She also complained that some witness statements that she thought would have helped her case hadn’t been taken and that she’d been charged for work that hadn’t been done. She also said that the firm had deliberately lost important evidence, which meant that another claim she was planning would have to be abandoned. Finally, she said that she had been charged twice for something. Mrs C wanted a total refund of the overcharged bill, replacement of the lost evidence and compensation for distress and inconvenience.
We found no evidence to make us question the solicitor’s charges and we also discovered that the overpayment had already been refunded. We didn’t agree that that the solicitor had lost the evidence deliberately, nor did we think that the loss was as important Mrs C said. Because we didn’t think there was any misconduct we didn’t refer the case to the Solicitors Regulation
Authority. The investigator did think that the firm should have taken better care of the evidence, however, and recommended that Mrs C accept the firm’s offer of £100 compensation. The firm also offered to write off a bill of £70 as a gesture of goodwill, and the investigator thought this was reasonable too. An Ombudsman came to the same conclusion. Mrs C accepted the decision.