A wife who risked everything she had in her desperate attempt to protect her children and keep her fraudster husband out of jail has won more than £67,000 damages from solicitors who negligently failed to advise her that signing her assets away was very unlikely to achieve her objective of saving him from prosecution.
The woman’s husband, a financial advisor, was jailed for six years in 2005 after he was convicted of numerous counts of obtaining money by deception. He had misappropriated clients’ funds to the tune of more than £2 million; however his wife had no inkling of his wrong-doing and had only realised that trouble was afoot when she discovered that her bank account had been frozen.
Prior to his prosecution, the woman had been anxious to protect her three children and to save her husband from criminal proceedings. With those objectives in mind, she had gone to a solicitors’ office and signed documents which mortgaged up to the hilt every asset that the couple had, including their home, in favour of a woman from whom her husband had stolen £800,000.
The wife’s professional negligence claim against the solicitors firm was subsequently upheld by a judge who found that she would never have signed the documents had she been advised as she should have been that it was highly likely that her husband would be prosecuted in any event. She was awarded £67,037 in damages and interest of £6,368.
In dismissing the law firm’s challenge to that decision, the Court of Appeal accepted the wife’s arguments that ‘any competent lawyer’ would have appreciated that it was ‘plain as a pikestaff’’ that her husband was very likely to go to jail and would have advised her accordingly. The wife had given the clearest possible evidence that she would not have signed the documents but for the negligent advice she received.