Solicitor acting in CFA owes same duties to client as solicitor in privately funded case

May 16, 2023

A solicitor acting on a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) owes the same duties to a client as a solicitor in a privately funded case, according to a new ruling.

In Deborah Anne Forster v Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP, Ms Forster claimed damages against RPC for loss caused by alleged breaches of duty when RPC acted for Ms Forster in litigation and following an agreed settlement. Ms Forster was defending a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation brought by a Ms Kate Bleasdale and a Mr John Cariss and pursuing relief against them and a limited company controlled by them in a petition under s.994 of the Companies Act 2006.

Ms Forster was represented by Blacks Solicitors LLP who instructed Steven Fennell and Jodie Wildridge from Exchange Chambers.

Ruling in Ms Forster’s favour, Mr Justice Fancourt rejected RPC’s argument that it is possible to imply a term that the solicitor can choose not to follow a client’s instructions where it is in the solicitor’s interests to take a different approach to settlement or enforcement of a judgment.

The judge found that there were serious breaches of duty on RPC’s part, including:

  • Not keeping Ms Forster informed of the huge level of costs being incurred (para 196 of the judgment).
  • Signing Ms Forster up to funding with Giltspur without disclosing RPC’s financial interest (paras 208-9 of the judgment).
  • Acting for John Deacon/Giltspur without telling Ms Forster (paras 232 to 237 of the judgment).
  • Refusing to follow Ms Forster’s instructions to enforce the judgment (paras 248-250 of the judgment).
  • Working with John Deacon to injunct Ms Forster to stop her sacking RPC (paras 253-255 of the judgment).

Darren Morgan, a Partner in the Commercial Dispute Resolution team at Blacks Solicitors, led the firm in representing Ms Forster. He said: “We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of the case and that Ms Forster’s claim for damages has been heard and supported. We were also extremely proud to see that the Vice Chancellor has praised the legal teams involved for their exemplary conduct, which I believe reflects the hard work and dedication that we put into ensuring Ms Forster’s case was successful.”

The case was heard at the Business and Property Courts in Leeds.  The neutral citation is [2023] EWHC 1150 (Ch) and the full judgment can be found here: