In a recent decision the Court of Appeal examined circumstances in which it would be an abuse of the process of the court for a claimant to bring proceedings against his solicitor. Laing v Taylor Walton [2007] EWCACiv 1146 will be welcomed by solicitor’s insurers in providing a summary route for disposing of certain claims where the claimant has suffered an adverse judgment in previous litigation.

In 1999 and 2002 the claimant Mr Laing reached oral agreements with W in relation to an investment that W was to make in a development project promoted by Mr Laing. In each case Taylor Walton were instructed to put the agreements into writing. A dispute arose between Mr Laing and W as to W’s entitlement under the agreements. W sued Mr Laing and the judge found in favour of W. The written agreements did properly reflect the oral agreements.

Mr Laing then brought proceedings against Taylor Walton alleging that the judgment had been obtained as a result of Taylor Walton’s negligence. Taylor Walton denied negligence and applied to have the claim struck out on the ground that it was an abuse of the process of the court in that it was a collateral attack on the earlier judgment and unfair.

The Court of Appeal found in Taylor Walton’s favour. Mr Laing’s claim amounted to re-litigation of the judge’s decision. All the points made by Mr Laing in the claim against Taylor Walton were or could have been made before the trial judge either at trial or on appeal.

This was not a case in which the claimant sought to introduce additional evidence or argument that was negligently omitted from the original litigation. It would an abuse of process to allow Mr Laing to re-litigate the same case on the basis of the same material that was or could been before the trial judge.