In Metropolitan Venues Ltd v Watson Burton LLP, the High Court rejected an ambitious argument that a firm of solicitors owed a duty of care to its client’s counter party in a commercial transaction. The decision shows that the courts are alive to creative arguments being used by claimants, particularly against professional services firms, where other options have run dry.

Metropolitan Venues argued that Watson Burton LLP was liable to it for losses resulting from an alleged breach of a contract by Watson Burton’s client, John Priestly. Having not entered into a retainer with Watson Burton, Metropolitan Venues argued that there existed, alternatively a collateral contract, implied retainer, or a tortious duty of care. His Honour Judge Pelling QC dismissed the claim on all counts. The fact that John Priestly was not worth suing does “not lead to the conclusion that a duty of care rested on the solicitor retained by the contract breaker to procure the performance by the contract breaker of his contract”.