Power to Stay Professional Negligence Claim against Foreign Lawyer

5 May, 2021

Earlier this year judgment was handed down in Premier Cruises Ltd. v. DLA Piper Rus Ltd. [2021] EWHC 151 (Comm) (David Edwards Q.C.), the two defendant firms of solicitors, DLA Russia and DLA UK, both part of the DLA Piper group, sought a stay of the professional negligence claims brought against them by their former clients, Premier Cruises Ltd. (PCL).

DLA Russia’s application was made pursuant to s. 9 of the Arbitration Act 1996, in reliance on a Russian arbitration clause contained in an engagement letter signed by PCL and subject to Russian law, and DLA UK sought a stay on case management grounds.  The Court refused both applications.

The evidence of Premier Cruises’ Russian law expert was preferred, with the result that it was held that the arbitration agreement in the engagement letter did not apply to advice given and relied on before the date of the engagement letter. The case management stay was also refused. In particular, the Court held that it was bound by the decision in Owusu v. Jackson (Case C-281/02), [2005] QB 801 to refuse a stay on case management grounds given that DLA UK was domiciled in England, and that, in any event, no rare and compelling circumstances existed to justify the grant of a stay.

Philippa Hopkins QC and John Robb, instructed by Tatham & Co, acted for the Claimant.

A link to the judgment can be found here.