In a cautionary tale for professional consultants offering friendly advice, the TCC found that an architect owed a duty of care in tort when advising friends on a garden project. The claimant couple Burgess sought advice from an architect friend Lejonvarn when deciding to landscape their garden. The project was substantial, and Lejonvarn provided designs and project management services, although a contract was never discussed and no payment was suggested for the services. The Burgesses became concerned about the cost and quality of the works as the project progressed, and employed another landscape designer. They then claimed against Lejonvarn for the increased costs of the project, including remedial works.
The case came before the court on several preliminary issues, including (i) whether the parties had agreed a contract, (ii) whether Lejonvarn owed the Burgesses a duty of care in tort, and if so the extent and nature of that duty, and (iii) had they agreed a project budget of GBP 130,000. The judge held that no contract had come into existence between the parties but that Lejonvarn did owe a duty of care in tort. The advice offered went beyond mere ad hoc advice, and there had been an intention to charge for more detailed design work in the later stages of the project. That duty of care extended to the pure economic loss being claimed. It also found that, on the facts, a budget of GBP 130,000 had been agreed, meaning the Burgesses could claim for additional costs.
It should be noted that the court found the advice was not of the informal kind offered between friends but professional in nature, over a long period.
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