The judge refused to strike out the claim against the defendant solicitors on the basis of issue estoppel or as an abuse of process. This was so despite the fact that the judge recognised that the present claim raises the same issues which have already been decided in proceedings taken against Mr Laing by a Mr Watson concerning his investment in a development project promoted by Mr Laing. In those proceedings, HHJ Thornton held that Taylor Walton were not retained by Mr Laing. Mr Laing did not appeal from the judgment and relies upon no new evidence or arguments in the present proceedings.
Comment: where there is a collateral attack on the findings of a previous judgment, the relevant criteria are whether it would be manifestly unfair to the defendant to permit the attack or whether it would otherwise bring the administration of justice into disrepute. The fact that Taylor Walton considered that they were acting for both Mr Laing and Mr Watson when drafting the documentation which enabled Mr Watson to succeed in his claim against Mr Laing weighed heavily with the judge, as did his view that Mr Laing had a real prospect of establishing that Judge Thornton’s decision was wrong. One cannot help feeling, however, that this claim is likely to be dismissed at a later stage given the direct attack it involves on the earlier judgment against which Mr Laing decided not to appeal.