Football club chief sues solicitor for professional negligence

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Huw Jenkins, the former chairman of Swansea City Football Club is suing his former solicitors for professional negligence for not advising him to get a divorce.

Mr Jenkins separated from his wife in February 2011. Shortly after, he sought legal advice from JCP Solicitors about starting divorce proceedings. However, his solicitors told him not to get divorced at that time as his financial position was not sufficiently stable to reach a financial settlement with his wife and allow him to have a “clean break”.

In June 2011, Swansea City FC was promoted to the Premier League. Mr Jenkins’ financial position improved substantially, mainly because of the significant increase in the value of his shares in Swansea City FC.

In 2015, Mr Jenkins instructed a different law firm to deal with his matrimonial issues but in 2016, Mr Jenkins’ wife started divorce proceedings, which were finalised in March 2017. As part of the divorce settlement, Mr Jenkins paid his wife a lump sum of £2.25 million, transferred various assets to her and was to make a number of further instalment payments.

In the meantime, JCP Solicitors had changed from being a Limited Liability Partnership to a Company but at all times traded as JCP Solicitors.

Mr Jenkins subsequently sued JCP Solicitors, naming the Company as the defendant, as it had traded as such since April 2015, for negligence. His claim was on the basis that the solicitors should have been aware that his financial position was likely to improve and should have advised him that it would be advantageous to start matrimonial proceedings before a material change in his circumstances occurred.

JCP Solicitors’ position is that the Company did not provide any advice prior to 2015 and it could not have any liability for advice given prior to its incorporation. JCP Solicitors also maintained that any advice provided was within the range of advice which could have been given by a reasonably competent solicitor and that, regardless, even if the appellant had started matrimonial proceedings in 2011, it would not have resulted in a quicker or lower financial settlement.

As a result of Mr Jenkins suing the wrong entity; the company rather than the Limited Liability Partnership, he made an application to the court to substitute the paryt to the proceedings. In September 2018, a District Judge did not allow this and struck out Mr Jenkins’ claim on the basis that he should have known when the Company was incorporated and who gave him the advice.

However, on appeal, the court allowed the change of named party on the basis that JCP Solicitors had not suffered any unfairness by the error and a fair trial was possible. Although, the Judge did find that part of Mr Jenkins’ claim against some advice given in April 2011 was out of time and could not proceed.

This case is interesting because of its subject matter, high profile sporting connection and local interest. It is a salient lesson that some things should not be put off or delayed. Geldards represents clients in professional negligence cases as well as advising on sports law and family law matters. If you have any queries or would like to discuss any issues raised above, please contact us.

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