Court dismisses ex-client’s claim over missing files



A buy-to-let landlord has failed to prove in court that his former solicitors had fabricated documents to defend a claim over missing files.

Ashfaq Spaul had issued the claim for the delivery of files dating back to work done in 2012 by London firm Southfields Solicitors, the High Court heard. Spaul had instructed the firm to represent him in re-financing of loans on some of his properties. Some seven years late, he paid assessed costs for the work done, then wrote to the firm asking for return of the re-financing files.

Southfields said it no longer had the files, having loaned them to Spaul in 2012. In any case it was company policy to retain copies of files for six years and then have them confidentially shredded.

In Spaul & Anor v Southfields Solicitors Ltd, the claimant alleged that correspondence relied upon by the firm to show it had returned the files was fabricated and backdated.

However Master Sullivan said Spaul frequently failed to answer the question he was being asked while giving evidence and did not appear to know which letters he had and had not received.

The judge also suggested that administration was ‘not a strength’ for the principal of the defendant firm who gave evidence in court. It was noted that he seemed to have a ‘rather loose understanding’ of disclosure in civil proceedings. But Sullivan did not accept that discrepancies in certain correspondence, including the incorrect postcodes and letters having two dates, were sufficient to infer that the letters were fabricated for this case.

The judge concluded that contemporaneous evidence supported the files having been loaned to Spaul in 2012. Either he or his staff had received them then and did not return them to Southfields. The claim was dismissed.



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