Posted by Caroline Preist, Partner
Surveyor negligence claims when the company’s gone bust
Can you sue your surveyor if the company they worked for has become insolvent?
Where an individual surveyor is an employee of a wider company, that organisation is likely to have professional indemnity insurance which will pay out if there is a successful claim for professional negligence against the individual. But what happens if this company goes bust? Can you still sue the organisation? Or if not, can you pursue your surveyor as an individual?
Previous cases exploring this issue
These questions were recently addressed by the Southend County Court in the case of Mavis Russell v (1) Walker & Co (2) Robert Chisnall and others. Mr Chisnall was an employee of Walker & Co and during 2007 he prepared a Homebuyers Report for Mrs Russell. In 2013 Mrs Russell brought a surveyor negligence claim in respect of this report. Her chances of recovering compensation from Walker & Co were limited because the company had since become insolvent and had cancelled its professional indemnity insurance cover. Mrs Russell then pursued a claim against Mr Chisnall as an individual, saying that he personally owed her a duty of care for preparing the report.
Mrs Russell relied on a past decision in the Court of Appeal of Merrett v Babb  where it was decided that individual surveyors can be personally liable for advice given on behalf of their organisation. In this particular case, the surveyor had signed the report personally, and knew the client would rely exclusively on it. This meant he had assumed a personal liability and so he had to personally compensate Miss Walker for her losses in a surveyor negligence claim.
Unfortunately for Mrs Russell the Court did not agree that her surveyor, Mr Chisnall had done enough to assume a personal liability and so Mrs Russell’s claim was unsuccessful.
So can I claim for professional negligence against my surveyor?
Each case will be different and whether the individual surveyors took personal responsibility for their actions will be a key factor in your claim. If you have a potential surveyor negligence claim against a surveyor, you need to be confident you will receive compensation if you win which means checking whether the surveyor’s organisation had insurance.
If you think you have a professional negligence claim against your surveyor or are concerned because your surveyor no longer works for a particular organisation because they’ve left or it’s become insolvent, contact us now and we can let you know your options.