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A Higher Standard

The textbook statement of standard of care applied in professional negligence cases is set out by Lord President Clyde in the case of Hunter v Hanley:

" First of all it must be proved that there is a usual and normal practise; secondly it must be proved that the defender has not adopted that practice; and thirdly and this is of crucial importance, it must be established that the course the [professional] adopted is one which no professional man of ordinary skill would have taken if he had been acting with ordinary care."

However, in this post, we explore if a professional can be held to an even higher standard if they profess to specialise in the area that they got wrong.

The Law

There are a number of cases that have shown that the courts were willing to apply a higher standard of care to professionals that professed to specialise in the areas in which their negligent advice was provided.

In the case of the Duchess of Argyll v Beuselinck the court found that where a solicitor that undertakes work with a degree of specialism, the standard is of a practitioner specifically specialising in that field. In the case of Eckersley v, Binnie & Partners the court said: “The law requires of a professional man that he live up in practice to the standard of the ordinary skilled man exercising and professing to have his special professional skill”. In the English case of Matrix Securities Ltd v Theodore Goddard, the court held that an allegedly negligent tax firm should be judged by the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent firm of solicitors with a specialist tax department. Finally, in the case of Wright v Lewis Silkin LLP it was held that a solicitor had been bound to provide the level of skill and expertise of a London City firm specialising in complex transnational employment law.

The Takeaway

A professional holding themselves out to be a specialist in their field should be held to a higher standard of care than the than a reasonably competent and diligent professional. The standard should be a reasonably competent a diligent professional that is a specialist in their field. Ultimately, this enhanced standard of care could make all the difference in the professional being found negligent and compensation being awarded.

If you, your business or your client have lost money as a result of the negligence of professional, then contact the MBM commercial dispute resolution team at or on 0131 226 8200 to speak to one of our team today. We will be more than happy to have an initial no-cost chat to discuss your case and see if we can help.

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