A previous Court ruling found that a surveyor had a personal responsibility to the buyers of a house when he provided the survey, by virtue of signing the valuation report personally. However, in a recent case, a Court has held that a surveyor owed the home buyer no personal duty of care.
In the recent case of Mavis Russell v (1) Walker & Co and (2) Robert Chisnall & others, Mrs Russell issued proceedings against Mr Chisnall and his employers (Walker & Co) with regards to a Homebuyer’s report which Mr Chisnall had completed.
At the time that Mrs Russell’s proceedings had been served, Walker & Co had become insolvent and there was no longer any professional indemnity insurance in place. Mrs Russell therefore pursued Mr Chisnall personally.
Mrs Russell argued that Mr Chisnall owed her a duty of care in preparing the report, and attempted to rely on the Court of Appeal case of Diana Merrett v John Babb, whereby it was found that a surveyor owed a duty of care to mortgage applicants who relied upon his valuation and report, which was separate from that owed by his employer.
However, the Court found that Mrs Russell had failed to show there had been a “special relationship” between herself and Mr Chisnall as there was no evidence of dealings between Mrs Russell and Mr Chisnall, indicating that he was assuming personal responsibility for the report. Mrs Russell had paid a fee to Walker & Co and she had understood that the report would specifically be produced on behalf of the company and not Mr Chisnall personally.
The Court also found that unlike the Babb case, Mrs Russell had contracted with a limited company and not a sole trader, so Mrs Russell had rights to enforce against the company and there was no justification for pursuing Mr Chisnall personally.
In what will be a blow to some home buyers, in light of this ruling it is likely that where you have contracted with a company and assumed you were contracting with that company (as opposed to the individual surveyor) then it is only that company who owes a duty of care, and not the surveyor. In order to hold a surveyor personally liable for carrying out the survey, you will probably have to show that you had a special relationship with the surveyor in that the surveyor clearly assumed a personal responsibility for his actions and you placed reasonable reliance upon that advice. Further, the Court may be likely to hold the surveyor personally responsible if he was a sole trader or gave you an indication that he would be responsible for the work himself. This will need to be borne in mind when instructing surveyors for house purchases.
How to find out if you have a claim
If you are unsure whether you have been provided with a negligent survey by your surveyor, causing you to suffer financial loss, then call our team today to find out.
If you wish to make a claim against a surveyor, an architect or a designer, the experienced negligence solicitors at Seth Lovis & Co are ready to help. They have a thorough knowledge of the law concerning professional negligence claims and a successful track record of achieving the maximum compensation for their clients. Contact them today by phone on 020 3411 6907 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org