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Smith v Peter Norton & Partners

16 October 2001
The issues

Professional negligence – Surveyors – Measure of damages.

The facts

Claimants engaged Defendants Surveyor to carry out structural survey on a property which they wanted to buy. The Report said that the property was in poor condition. It was bought by the Claimants for £330,000, a reduction of approximately £20-30,000 as a result of the findings of the Report. Three years later Claimants issued proceedings against the Surveyor alleging he had failed to advise them of the real structural condition of the property, in particular the main timber frame. They argued that the cost of repairs was £130,000 to which should be added cost of alternative accommodation. The Judge at first instance struck out the Claimants argument as to the appropriate measure of damages accepting the Defendants argument, that the appropriate measure was the diminution in value and not the cost of repairs.

The Claimant Appealed.

The decision

The Judge had acted appropriately in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules in disposing of
a case that had no prospects of success. An award of damages should place the Claimant in a position he would have been had the work not been done, and not put him in a better position. Had the Claimants figures been awarded a substantial injustice would have occurred. There was no arguable basis on which to award the cost of repairs over the diminution in value.

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