RSS

Category Archives: negligence

Master Scam: Law Society switch brokers of Master Policy – insurance scheme dubbed ‘corrupt & manipulative’ provides little protection for consumers against negligent, rogue lawyers

Law Society switch brokers on dodgy insurance scheme. AN INSURANCE scheme operated by the Law Society of Scotland – which covers all Scottish solicitors – and is designed to ‘protect’ consumers when lawyers walk off with their cash and other assets – has announced a change of brokers from Marsh to Lockton.

The switch was announced last week by the Law Society – who said brokers Lockton will administer and broker the Master Policy of Professional Indemnity Insurance from 1 January 2017.

The move comes after Marsh – who managed the policy for nearly 40 years – lost the five yearly tender process in April 2016 to Lockton.

The Master Insurance Policy is a compulsory Professional Indemnity Insurance arrangement enforced by the Law Society upon all solicitors in Scotland.

The scheme includes all in-house solicitors who work for the Scottish Government and lawyers from the Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS) seconded around public bodies and other branches of the Executive such as the Scottish Parliament and justice bodies.

The Master Policy claims to provide cover of up to £2 million for any one claim where the solicitor is ‘established’ to have been negligent.

However, the process of establishing whether a solicitor is negligent or not – is controlled by the legal profession and the courts.

In a statement issued by the Law Society, Chief Executive Lorna Jack claimed “The Master Policy provides an important protection for solicitors’ clients when things go wrong. The insurance means that any valid claim against a Scottish solicitor will be paid – even if the solicitor is no longer in practice, no longer solvent or cannot be traced.”

However, the claims – echoed from Jack’s predecessor – Douglas Mill – were previously & spectacularly taken apart by Deputy First Minister & Finance Secretary John Swinney, during a Scottish Parliament investigation into self regulation of the legal profession in 2006.

Mr Swinney branded the Law Society & Master Policy as manipulative after Mill claimed the Law Society kept a distance from the client compensation insurance arrangements.

Mr Swinney produced an internal memo from Mill himself – who had requested a “summit meeting how to dispose of several valid claims.”

Mill went onto “swear on his granny’s grave” he and the Law Society had never intervened in a compensation claim.

However, the memo – produced by Swinney during the Holyrood hearing – came to illustrate the significant level of dishonesty and  manipulation with regard to the ‘consumer protection policy’ – which despite Mill’s claims to the contrary – rarely pays full compensation after lawyers swipe clients assets.

The Master Policy was more recently linked in a Research Report to deaths and suicides of clients who attempted to claim back hundreds of thousands of pounds taken by legal agents engaged in corrupt practices not covered by an alternative Scottish Solicitors Guarantee Fund run by the legal profession.

The independent report, compiled by legal academics Professor Frank Stephen & Dr Angela Melville from the University of Manchester School of Law – concluded the Master Policy “is simply designed to allow lawyers to sleep at night.” rather than protect consumers from rogue elements within the legal profession.

According to the report “claimants described being intimidated, being forced to settle rather than try to run a hearing without legal support, and all felt that their claims’ outcomes were not fair. Some claimants felt that they should have received more support, and that this lack was further evidence of actors within the legal system being “against” Master Policy claimants. Judges were described as being “former solicitors”, members of the Law Society – and thus, against claimants. Some described judges and other judicial officers as being very hostile to party litigants.”

Cases referred to in the report describe scenarios where consumers are commonly forced to become party litigants after the Law Society intervene in the claims process, forcing claimants legal representatives to withdraw from acting in financial damages claims against  against other solicitors.

The Research Report sourced comments from claimants: “I keep fighting cases, and they keep coming at me, and now I have become ill. But they still keep coming at me. They threw me out onto the street, I couldn’t get my medication, I’ve got nothing, I was homeless, ill, sleeping in the car. Now I am appealing. But I can’t get a solicitor. They are just shutting me down…. My health has been damaged, they kill you off. It’s a proven fact. All of us have stress related problems after years and years of stress.”

The report also linked the Law Society’s insurance scheme to suicides of clients who attempted to claim back funds appropriated by corrupt solicitors.

The report stated:  “Several claimants said that they had been diagnosed with depression; that they had high blood pressure; and several had their marriages fail due to their claim. Some had lost a lot of money, their homes, and we were told that one party litigant had committed suicide.”

The report concluded: “What has clearly come through these interviews has been the very divergent views of solicitors and claimants/consumer groups as to the primary function of the Master Policy. The former tend to see it as simply a professional negligence insurance designed to protect individual members of the profession. The latter see that its primary purpose should be to protect the public against incompetent members of the profession. Whilst these are not incompatible aims we have come to the view that the rhetoric of the Law Society of Scotland encourages the latter perception but practice is more inclined to the former. In other jurisdictions there is a more explicit statement that it is the former.”

“It is clear that establishing a valid claim under the Master Policy requires either an admission of liability on the part of the solicitor or an action to be taken by the claimant to establish liability. It is our view that the Law Society of Scotland raises the expectations of potential claimants by emphasising the Master Policy’s public protection role. It is perhaps more accurate to say that policy ensures that those with a proven claim will be able to recover.”

“Those claimants to whom we spoke were very much of the opinion that it was difficult to establish liability of a solicitor for professional negligence. It would be desirable to test this claim by looking at the record of the Master Policy in terms of claims and compensation paid. Data which would have allowed us to do this was requested from the Law Society of Scotland but was only made available the day before this Report was due to be submitted. Furthermore the Law Society of Scotland and Marsh put conditions on the use of the data in this Report which were unacceptable to us and to the Chief Executive of SLCC.”

“The limited data which we have seen on the Guarantee Fund suggests that there is a considerable difference between the value of claims and the sums paid out by the Fund. We have not been able to establish whether this is a result of the discretionary nature of the fund or simply a large divergence between parties in assessing the sums lost.”

“We would recommend that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission undertake a longer term research project which will allow researchers to examine the experiences of a representative sample of claimants and solicitors as well as analyse data on claims provided by the Master Policy’s broker under reasonable conditions of use.”

Dr Angela Melville – who interviewed many clients for her final report, confirmed the research team did not receive a copy of the Master Policy itself after Marsh director Alistair J Sim, demanded strict conditions for the disclosure of the insurance policy’s terms.

Sim wrote in a letter to the University research team – which appears in full on the last page of the report: “Please note that the consent of Marsh and Royal & Sun Alliance plc to the production of the enclosed documents is condition on the research team agreeing not to quote from the documents, or any part of them, whether text or figures, in the report to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.”

Sim’s letter continued: “The documents which are produced are confidential and are commercially sensitive. They are provided to the research team only and neither the documents nor copies should be provided to any other party nor should the content of the documents be disclosed to anyone outside the research team. At the conclusion of the research project, the documents should be returned with confirmation that foregoing conditions have been complied with and that no copies have been retained. If the research team is unable to agree to the foregoing conditions, the documents should be returned along with confirmation that no copies have been retained.”

No further research has been commissioned by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission since the report was published in 2009, and with the SLCC now under substantive control of the Law Society of Scotland, much of what it produces by way of research and statistics is widely recognised as having little honest value in terms of consumer protection.

The Master Policy started in November 1978 under brokers Sedgwick Forbes UK Limited, which later became part of the Marsh Group. Given the highly specialist nature of professional indemnity insurance, the brokers play a vital role in arranging and securing the insurance cover as well as providing administration, advice, as well as risk management training.

Along the years, law firms acting for the Master Policy included Simpson & Marwick – now merged with Clyde & Co, Balfour & Manson and other ‘big name’ law firms brought in to demolish consumers attempts to reclaim millions of pounds lost, misappropriated or embezzled by Scottish solicitors.

While the Master Policy is tasked with dealing with claims for negligence, the Law Society has been known to manipulate claims on a serial basis. Unsurprisingly, even claims which do succeed against the Master Policy bear little return to clients who are forced to go through lengthy court processes in front of a judiciary who have also previously paid into the same Master Policy arrangement while serving as solicitors in their earlier years prior to the bench.

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP : Investigation reveals Scotland’s ‘independent’ legal regulator is mired in family, business & personal links to legal profession & Law Society

SLCCYour cousin or mine? Investigators at legal regulator forced to reveal links to lawyers. COMPLAINTS about dishonest or unscrupulous solicitors made to the the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) stand little chance of a fair hearing, according to clients & consumer specialists who have unearthed a web of personal, business & other links between members of staff at the SLCC and solicitors and law firms under investigation by the so-called ‘independent’ regulator of Scotland’s legal profession.

There are also accusations from clients, and even murmurs from some in the legal profession itself that certain solicitors under investigation by the SLCC, which took over complaints handling from the Law Society of Scotland in October 2008, have allegedly received inside help from within the legal regulator to escape expected punishment for poor and negligent legal service provided to clients & consumers.

SLCC Staff register of interests declarations up to July 2013SLCC staff declarations of interest for 2011-2012 show true extent of problems for fair hearing at legal regulator. Amid the media investigation into links between the legal profession and it’s own regulator, a response to a Freedom of Information request made by Diary of Injustice journalists to the SLCC conformed that ‘special relationships’ between SLCC employees, the legal profession and the vested interests of the Law Society of Scotland are affecting complaints investigations.

A client who has previously had difficulties with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission commented on the revelations, saying : “While the response shows members of staff have declared at least some conflict of interest in the past year with regards to complaints, it is difficult to imagine that any complaint made by a member of the public to what is supposedly an independent regulator of complaints about the legal profession can get anything approaching a fair hearing when everyone at the regulator is connected  to lawyers or the Law Society itself.”

The SLCC also confirmed in it’s response to the FOI request the actual numbers of staff who have links to the legal profession and the body which represents Scottish solicitors best interests, the Law Society of Scotland.

The SLCC disclosed :

15 members of staff qualified as solicitors.

No members of staff hold current positions with the Law Society of Scotland or any law firm.

5 members of staff held a previous position at the Law Society of Scotland

8 members of staff held a previous position at a law firm.

5 members of staff have held previous positions at a law firm and Law Society of Scotland.

The SLCC’s Freedom of Information response sought to comment on how staff interests relating to complaints investigations are currently handled, stating : “I think it would be helpful to make clear that where staff have previously worked at a firm prior to joining the SLCC and or know personally a practitioner and or been a client etc, they will not be involved in any complaint investigation or related. In such cases the complaint shall be passed to an SLCC investigator with no current or previous history/dealings.”

The SLCC refused to release the identities of any of those who have such connections, declaring it would not be in the public interest to do so.

The SLCC said : “The data we are withholding is the personal data of members of staff of the SLCC and legal practitioners, and I am of the opinion that to release the information into the public domain would be unfair in these circumstances, as disclosure may cause them damage and distress, and disclosure would not be within their reasonable expectations. As non-senior or public officials, they would not expect that disclosure into the public domain.”

However, allegations have now been made that the numbers of undeclared meetings involving SLCC employees, solicitors, the Law Society of Scotland, and lawyers who represent solicitors who are the subject of complaints investigations far outweigh declarations made or even details known to the SLCC’s own board members, some of whom have suspected for some time that inappropriate contact between SLCC insiders and the legal profession has taken place.

Speaking to Diary of Injustice earlier this week, a legal source known to have close links to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission described the legal regulator’s internal complaints culture as “Cover my back quickly”.

Commenting on the material provided to Diary of Injustice and SLCC’s response, the source described regular situations where solicitors being investigated were thought to have used influence to obtain internal details of clients complaints and statements not already handed over by the regulator after it became clear that lawyers and law firms under investigation appeared to have access to content held by the SLCC and were using it to pressure clients to close their complaint.

In some cases, it has also been alleged solicitors and their representatives were using the SLCC’s own material to pressure the ‘independent’ regulator into closing investigations prematurely or refusing to investigate complaints point blank.

In one case cited to DOI which cannot be published for legal reasons, it is alleged a solicitor who was the subject of a serious complaint involving a significant amount of client funds, secretly met with a member of the SLCC’s staff who is alleged to have provided information and an opinion of how far the complainant was willing to go with regard to their complaint, along with information on the complainant’s then legal representatives.

It transpired a week after the apparently undeclared meeting between the solicitor and the SLCC insider, the complainant’s recently acquired solicitor suddenly withdrew from acting for them without any explanation, leaving the complainant’s family in a position where they have not been able to secure new legal representation since.

With such close relationships in play, it is clear that staffing a legal regulator with legal insiders, family & friends has created a so-called ‘independent’ legal regulator with about as much credibility as the Financial Service Authority at the height of the UK’s Banking collapse.

If you feel you have a complaint about a Scottish solicitor where close relationships within the legal profession are or have prejudiced your right to a fair hearing, email us the details via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Vested interests ‘run Scotland’s courts’ as judges rule £90K & £120K civil jury awards over accident deaths ‘were excessive’

Lord_Hamilton_03Decision to ‘guide’ juries on civil awards shows vested interests have free run of our courts. A RULING in Scotland’s Court of Session by a five judge bench under the retiring Lord President, Lord Hamilton that damages awards made by civil juries to relatives of two people killed in separate accidents ‘were excessive and the claims should be heard again’ will prove to many that vested interests of professions, big business & insurance firms have the ability to skew justice in their favour in Scotland’s courts. The ruling, made earlier this week is seen by some as the thin end of the wedge to ending civil juries in damages awards in Scotland’s courts are over ‘paltry’ sums which not even a Banker would accept as a bonus or a judge would accept as an annual salary or retirement pension..

Previously, civil juries at the court of Session had found negligence on the part of the defenders had caused the deaths, where in the first case, KIRSTY MAY HAMILTON Pursuer and Respondent; against FERGUSON TRANSPORT (SPEAN BRIDGE) LTD Applicant and Defender: jurors awarded Kirsty Hamilton £120,000 after her mother, Caroline (aged 50) died in a road traffic accident when her car was crushed by a lorry near Fort William. Ms Hamilton was 17 at the time of her mother’s death. In the second case,  GILBERT DENNIS THOMSON Pursuer and Respondent; against DENNIS THOMSON BUILDERS LTD Applicant and Defender, Dennis Thomson, was awarded £90,000 by a civil jury for the death of his son James, then aged 26, who died in an accident on a building site. Mr Thomson senior was 57 at the time of his son’s death.

However, the five judge bench – Lord Eassie, Lord Clarke, Lord Emslie, Lord Brodie and Lord Hamilton who heard the appeals of the companies previously found to be liable for the cause of the two fatalities, have now decided the compensation claims of the relatives should be heard again, and this time, the jurors should be given “guidance” from the presiding judge in assessing damages, with the judge suggesting a spectrum in which the award might lie.

The implication of the judges decision is that any further awards made in the cases should be much less than originally made by the earlier jury, leading many to conclude that vested interests are controlling the Scottish courts and the public’s access to justice.

In a telling excerpt from the opinion of the court, Lord Hamilton, sounding more like he was more concerned with curtailing publicity & growing enquiries over the disparity of justice where the amount of financial awards made by judges in damages actions without juries are falling well short of awards made in cases where a civil jury has made it’s decision, said : “If greater regard than hitherto is not had by judges to jury awards then the disparity between the judicial and jury awards is likely to remain.” Lord Hamilton went onto claim such a “state of affairs which lacks the consistency which is one of the hallmarks of a mature system”

The now retired Lord President commented that the absence of directions about sums awarded in similar cases by a civil jury, as opposed to that awarded by a judge was a “less than satisfactory aspect of civil jury trials”. Lord Hamilton went onto say it was time “to set a framework for civil juries against which they can address levels of damages”which may easily be interpreted as an attempt to deprive a civil jury from making any kind of award which does not sit easily with a judge, or the vested interests of insurers & big business.

Lord Hamilton suggested several ways to address the disparities between awards made by judges & civil juries in Scotland’s Courts, saying : “The objective must now be to seek to narrow that disparity and to eliminate, in so far as practical, that lack of consistency. That can be done by three measures: first, by judges, sitting alone or in the Inner House, having significantly more regard to available jury awards (particularly where they demonstrate a pattern); secondly, by juries being given by the presiding judge fuller guidance than hitherto as to the level of damages which, consistently with other cases, might reasonably be awarded by them; and, thirdly, by appellate courts continuing to intervene, where necessary, on comparative justice grounds as envisaged under statute since 1815. This is a process which will take time and experience to mature.”

In what some may interpret as comments intended to stave off any intervention by the Scottish Parliament (similar to the asbestos damages bill) to remedy what many will perceive as a huge injustice in the cases of the deaths of the two persons, Lord Hamilton wrote in his opinion : “There is no reason to suppose that Parliament intended that awards by juries should have priority over awards by judges – or vice versa. Judicial and jury awards give different but complementary guidance for what is a just award of damages. In an age when life may be thought to be more precious than it may have been thought to be by earlier generations, and where consequentially the loss of the life of a close relative may seem a greater loss than it might have seemed earlier, the input of jury awards, reflective of the views of the community, may, in death cases, be particularly important.”

Lord Hamilton continued : “While awards made by juries without the benefit of judicial guidance may be at greater risk of being arbitrary or of having been influenced by illegitimate factors, those made with that (non-prescriptive) benefit are likely to be a valuable source for assessment in future cases. As to the second element, some suggestions are made below (para [76]) as to what procedural arrangements might be put in hand. The objective should be to eliminate, or at least reduce, the disparity between judicial and jury awards while at the same time securing that “awards … in comparable cases … bear a coherent relationship with each other” (Girvan, per Lord Clyde at page 25). If that objective is achieved, then parties whose disputes over damages are litigated can be better satisfied that they have had a fair trial – whether the adjudicating body is a judge or a jury.”

The size of the awards made by the civil juries in Scottish courts may surprise international readers, particularly those from the United States where awards in similar cases would normally run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars. However, Scotland’s justice system has yet to catch up, if ever, with other jurisdictions who allow greater access to justice to victims of injustice, rather than what is seen as the regular influence of vested interests in Scotland’s courts which limits justice, and punishment over the loss of loved ones, to what amounts to little more than a few pennies after legal fees are paid.

As as happened in so many cases before in Scotland’s courts, bankers, politicians and judges can expect bigger bonuses & retirement pensions than any relative can expect via a future award made by a judge or civil jury in a case in a Scottish court.

The full details of the opinion can be read here :  CSIH 52 PD2039/09 and PD1444/09 OPINION OF THE LORD PRESIDENT in motions for new trials in causis (1) KIRSTY MAY HAMILTON Pursuer and Respondent; against FERGUSON TRANSPORT (SPEAN BRIDGE) LTD Applicant and Defender and (2) GILBERT DENNIS THOMSON Pursuer and Respondent; against DENNIS THOMSON BUILDERS LTD Applicant and Defender

Of note is the inclusion in the hearing of counsel from the Scottish Government Legal Directorate appearing for Scottish Ministers.

BBC News reported on the case here : Awards in Highland and Shetland accidents ‘excessive’ judges rule

 

Tags: , , , ,

Crooked lawyer impersonates DEAD COLLEAGUE to lure clients in fraud scam as Law Society of Scotland’s self regulation of solicitors fails yet again

O'Donnell MontageSolicitor John O’Donnell named in yet another crooked lawyer scandal as Law Society’s self regulation of lawyers fails to protect consumers. AN INVESTIGATION by the Sunday Mail newspaper has revealed twice suspended but still working as a solicitor John G O’Donnell has been impersonating a DECEASED LAWYER colleague as part of an elaborate fraud, while staff at Davidson Fraser, the law firm he was working at in 2009, said nothing to clients. The Law Society of Scotland did nothing to prevent the rogue solicitor continuing his reign of scams against clients even after being twice suspended & made bankrupt, and O’Donnell was only found out after one of his clients, widow Elizabeth Campbell, 69, saw his photograph in an earlier article in the Sunday Mail newspaper featuring the solicitor who was pretending to be the now deceased solicitor Colin Davidson while ‘representing’ Mrs Campbell in legal cases & a land deal he then went on to ruin.

SLAB CASTaxpayer funded lawyer working at Citizens Advice referred clients to fraudster law firm & lawyer. The paper’s investigation of O’Donnell has also revealed how a taxpayer funded lawyer, Gilbert A Anderson who works for Citizens Advice Scotland as an in-court legal adviser at Hamilton Sheriff Court in a taxpayer funded position paid for by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB), passed on clients to O’Donnell at law firm Davidson Fraser without alerting anyone to the notorious solicitor’s past treatment of clients and his disgraceful record as a solicitor which includes two suspensions of his practising certificate and over TWENTY ONE negligence claims made by O’Donnell’s former clients to the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy. The investigation also reveals Mr Anderson’s name appeared on the Davidson Fraser law firm’s letterhead.

ssdtTribunal ineffective at protecting consumers from rogue solicitors. Additionally, in an interesting twist to one of the hearings at the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, where proceedings more often than not play into the hands of double dealers and those regulators such as the Law Society of Scotland who fail to protect the public from crooked lawyers, it was also revealed that Elaine Motion of Balfour & Manson, acting as the Law Society’s Fiscal who ‘prosecuted’ John O’Donnell at the SSDT, was approached by solicitor Steven Gold, (O’Donnell’s own solicitor) at a Law Society Christmas Party in 2009, where a shady deal was proposed. While the Tribunal report was at pains to say no deal had been done to save O’Donnell, the fact remains he went on to work at other law firms while the Law Society sat back and did nothing to protect unsuspecting clients.

A ‘stripped down’ ‘account’ of the meeting between Elaine Motion & Steven Gold, is reported in the Tribunal’s hearing into one of the complaints against O’Donnell, which is published online here Council of the Law Society of Scotland v John G O’Donnell and reprinted below to give a flavour of the double dealing behind the closed doors world of self regulation of Scottish solicitors :

Law Society of ScotlandLaw Society’s 2009 Christmas party was scene of deal to save O’Donnell from disciplinary moves. Page three of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland v John G O’Donnell states : “In December 2009, Elaine Motion and Steven Gold, Solicitor were both at a Law Society’s Christmas Drinks Party.  They were involved in a conversation with regard to the health and welfare of the Respondent. Mr Gold made representations on behalf of the Respondent to Elaine Motion to the effect that it would be humane and advantageous to everyone involved if a way could be found to allow the Respondent to hand in his practising certificate without having to undergo the ordeal and expense of an appearance before the Tribunal. Elaine Motion was sympathetic to the representations but indicated that she would require to discuss matters with the Law Society of Scotland who would make the decision. There was no undertaking given at this meeting to Steven Gold that if the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal struck the Respondent’s name from the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland no further Complaints would be brought against the Respondent and no undertaking was given that if the Respondent accepted pleas of guilty to the outstanding Complaint, no further proceedings would be brought against him.”

Those who follow the murky word of self regulation of Scotland’s legal profession will have trouble believing much of the SSDT’s account of matters, in the light of O’Donnell’s continued disregard of the law and the Law Society of Scotland’s failure to protect consumers from serial crooked solicitors and law firm staff who apparently stand by and watch while clients are robbed blind.

Two other SSDT reports relating to complaints made by clients against solicitor John O’Donnell who was found guilty on both occasions are also published online HERE & HERE.

The ongoing saga of John O’Donnell and his trail of victims is indicative of the poor protection for consumers of legal services, let down by regulators such as  the Law Society of Scotland & Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).

The Sunday Mail’s investigation into John O’Donnell follows :

Exclusive  Dodgy Lawyer back at it - Sunday Mail 22 April 2012EXCLUSIVE : DODGY LAWYER BACK AT IT

COLIN YOU A LIAR

Client’s fury at identity fraud

By Russell Findlay, Sunday Mail 22 April 2012

A banned solicitor has been accused of conning a client by impersonating another lawyer in an elaborate fraud. The client also claims that John O’Donnell, 61 cost her 50,000 by botching a land deal and that he failed to turn up to defend two small claims for her.

Widow Elizabeth Campbell, 69, believed that the solicitor working for her was called Colin Davidson. But she discovered “Colin” was actually O’Donnell – who is serving two five year bans from working as a solicitor and is bankrupt – when she saw his photo in the Sunday Mail.

Elizabeth, from East Kilbride, said : “I met “Colin” in his office many times between March and September last year. I was stunned when I came across a Sunday Mail story about O’Donnell which carried his photo. I recognised him as the man I knew as Colin. I was shattered.”

Elizabeth claimed that O’Donnell botched a land deal dispute by allowing it to be sold for less than its true value, costing her 50,000. And she also accused him of lying by saying that he defended two small claims cases at Hamilton & Glasgow Sheriff Courts.

Elizabeth, who suffered from depression after her husband’s death four years ago, said she had trusted “Colin” when they first met.

She said : “He said that he understood as he had also suffered. I thought to myself, I’ve got a soul mate here” Then I discovered that he had failed to represent me at Hamilton and Glasgow Sheriff Courts for small claims and two decrees were awarded against me. Debt collectors began chasing me yet he continued to lie and say that he had been in court. I’ve been able to recall the Glasgow case but the Hamilton case is still against me.”

O’Donnell was given a five year ban in 2009 and another five-year ban in 2010 due to his appalling track record of professional misconduct. His bankruptcy also disqualifies him from practising.

In March last year, the Sunday Mail warned the Law Society of Scotland that O’Donnell was allegedly working for the real Colin Davidson’s firm Davidson Fraser. Former Bankrupt Davidson – who has since died – told us then : “He’s not employed here.”

Elizabeth believes she was targeted because she was vulnerable. She said : “He only took around 210 from me. I think the long- term aim was to get my house.” She added that staff at the law firm’s office in Clarkston Road, Glasgow seemed aware of the deception, making excuses when she asked why people called him John.

She said : “I was so angry that I was going to attend Davidson’s funeral. I wish I had done just for O’Donnell’s reaction. I find it incredible that he has been able to get away with this, especially given that the Law Society was warned what was going on.”

Law Society chiefs have refused to say if other clients were also duped and declined to comment on the case. A senior legal insider said that O’Donnell could now face criminal prosecution for working as a solicitor without a practising certificate.

BID TO BEAT BAN AT LEGAL BODY’S CHRISTMAS PARTY

Another lawyer tried to strike a deal for O’Donnell at a Law Society Christmas party in 2009. A Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal report said Steven Gold asked Law Society prosecutor Elaine Motion to consider dropping complaints against O’Donnell if he agreed to surrender his practising certificate.

Motion met O’Donnell as the Society considered five more complaints. But because he was not struck off by the SSDT, Motion decided that O’Donnell “may be hearing from her again”.

LINKS TO SOLICITOR PAID BY OUR TAXES

Elizabeth was referred to Davidson Fraser by taxpayer funded lawyer Gilbert Anderson.

Anderson is a Citizens Advice Bureau adviser at Hamilton Sheriff Court whose wages are paid by the Scottish Legal Aid Board. He said yesterday : “I gave her a list of firms and she asked if I knew of any particular firm. Davidson Fraser were not specified.”

However, Anderson’s name appeared as an employee on the firm’s letter headed paper in July 2011.

He said : “The moment Mrs Campbell brought that to my notice I was down to Davidson Fraser to find out exactly what they were doing. Mr Davidson said he was under the impression I was going to work for them. But I said no, I said I would consider. It was agreed that he was to remove my name.”

Davidson also used a room to meet clients at the volunteer-run South Side Advice Centre in Glasgow. But he was kicked out in October due to a number of complaints.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Solicitors from Hell website owner goes after Law Society of England & Wales with representative class action, signatures invited

LSSolicitors from Hell owner is seeking to take on the Law Society of England & Wales in a class action. IF YOU have experienced a rejected complaint at the hands of the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) or Solicitors Regulator Authority (SRA), or even worse, if you have been awarded a fraction of the losses incurred by your legal representatives, you may well wish to join a REPRESENTATIVE CLASS ACTION against the Law Society of England & Wales which is being pursued by Rick Kordowski, the owner of the well known SOLICITORS FROM HELL (SfH) website, itself removed from the internet after the Law Society of England & Wales secured an interdict in the High Court on behalf of itself & other vested interests after concerns clients of ‘rogue lawyers’ had posted too much information about their experiences at the hands of their legal representatives, experiences so horrific they were liable to heavily impact on law firms business.

The website created by Mr Kordowski for the class action requests signatures of those who have not had a fair hearing with regard to their complaints against solicitors. Details follow :

Rickkordowski.co.uk website pageHas the Legal Ombudsman or the SRA rejected or ignored your complaint? Have you been awarded a fraction of the losses you incurred?

JOIN ME in a collective ‘representative action’ against the Law Society of England and Wales on behalf of ALL who have suffered a loss as a result of a solicitor’s actions or negligence.

I believe the Law Society’s complaint handlers have failed in their ‘duty of care’ by rejecting valid complaints. Or upholding complaints – but only awarding a fraction of the loses incurred by the legal consumer.

In UK tort law, a ‘duty of care’ is a legal obligation imposed on anyone who has failed to adhere to a standard of reasonable care. I believe the Law Society’s complaint handlers have failed to adhere to this standard in hundreds of cases throughout the UK.

This action is for anyone who has genuinely suffered as a result of a solicitor’s action or negligence and is not, for example, if your solicitor has simply lost your claim or case.

Q. What is a ‘representative action’ or ‘class action’?
A. In law, a ‘representative action’ or a ‘class action’ is a type of lawsuit in which a large group of people collectively bring a claim to court against a single defendant.

Q. Are you sure? The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR 19.6) only allow persons to be represented in civil proceedings by an other if they all have ‘the same interest’.
A. I intend to use a recent judgment as a precedent. A claim by the Law Society where it was clear that the individual interests of the represented was ‘not the same’.

Q. How are you going to finance this action?
A. I will put this claim out to tender to various Barristers Chambers on a conditional fee arrangement (No win – no fee).

Q. Why are you doing this?
A. I was let down by my solicitor. The Law Society ruled in my favour and fined the solicitor £500 (payable to me). But this was a fraction of the losses I incurred as a result of the solicitor’s actions. The only option then is to take direct legal action, which, for most people, the costs of individual litigation of this type is prohibited. Sound familiar? Opt in by using the form on the right.

Q. As all solicitors are insured for negligence, can they not simply make a claim to cover my losses?
A. The cost of indemnity insurance for solicitors is one of the highest, second only to plastic surgeons. A solicitor will fight tooth and nail not to make a claim and face a rise in the annual premium.

Q. If I use the ‘opt in’ form will my details be kept safe?
A. Yes, all collected information will be kept in the strictest confidence and will not be circulated, sold or published anywhere at all.

Q. My solicitor let me down by not winning my case. Can I opt in?
A. No. This is a class action claim for all who have suffered loss and want compensation for the anxiety and distress due to the negligence or the actions of a solicitor. Following which, the Law Society’s complaints handlers failed to adhere to a standard of reasonable care.

By submitting your information you understand that there is no guarantee in this action. Full details of the claim will be given to those who have opted in.

If your genuine complaint against a solicitor has been rejected or ignored by the Legal Ombudsman (or the SRA) or if you feel the compensation you were awarded was not sufficient to cover your losses please complete the form on the right. You will be added to the claim and our mailing list with regular updates.

Rick Kordowski

 

Tags: ,

NAME & SHAME YOUR CROOKED LAWYER : Have you been treated roughly by your solicitor ? It’s time to talk, rate, review, name & shame YOUR crooked lawyer

Lawyer sued for 1 million Sunday Mail June 3 2007Naming & shaming a crooked lawyer is one of the best ways to warn consumers of the perils of using lawyers who fail to disclose their history to clients. IN response to last year’s court sponsored takedowns of websites such as Solicitors from Hell & others across the UK & Ireland where clients of “crooked lawyers” had used the online ratings sites to publish and even debate their usually bad experiences with their solicitors, it is very clear that in 2012, consumers who are ripped off by their legal representatives or those who know of a story involving a crooked lawyer ripping off members of the public should follow the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) naming & shaming policy, by using this year to OUT those lawyers who fail their clients, whether by negligence, corruption or multiple mistakes in an effort to ensure all consumers are protected from the rogue elements of the legal profession, whether in Scotland, England Wales, or Ireland.

Naming & shaming is terribly easy to do. Make the choice to protect yourself & others, by doing it.

If you have experience of a crooked lawyer, or if you know of anyone who has experience of a crooked lawyer, wherever you are, you can help protect yourself, or help others by ensuring the details of the story are fully published in the media while also making a complaint to bodies such as the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) and the Law Society of Scotland.

Margaret Scanlan - Called to the Bars - Sunday Mail  15 March 2009 emailLaw complaints regulators like the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Law Society of Scotland turn out to be client-haters rather than consumer protectors. Consumers, clients & readers may get a lot further in their complaints and get a lot more satisfaction from a media investigation of their crooked lawyers long before the Law Society or blundering SLCC get round to putting pen to paper (usually more so in an effort to protect the lawyer before protecting the client). Put simply, its more difficult for so-called regulators like the Law Society of Scotland or SLCC to let a crooked lawyer off the hook if they have already been in the newspapers a few times. Its also more difficult to let a crooked lawyer off the hook if, as usually turns out to be the case, the media reveal they have been ripping off many of their clients, not just you, or someone you know.

If you have a story about a crooked lawyer, contact Diary of Injustice via scottishlawreporters@gmail.com with full details of what happened, how you were treated and what you have done about it so far.

Publishing your experiences at the hands of crooks in the legal world will protect you, and protect others, and will also help shame some of those 70K a year plus expenses politicians in the Scottish Parliament who continue to allow lawyers to regulate themselves and cover up for their colleagues, either at the point of complaint or in the courts. Its time you, the public are heard. Its time consumers and clients who fund the legal profession come first and make sure YOU, the fee paying client have the final say in what happens to YOUR crooked lawyer.

As the Sunday Mail reveals, clients & consumers are usually not aware their own crooked lawyer is ripping off a host of others, and getting away with it, until the media comes along and reports it to the wider world :

Revealed - Top Lawyer at the centre of 12 negligence claims April 23 Sunday Mail 2006REVEALED: TOP LAWYER AT THE CENTRE OF 12 NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS

EXCLUSIVE Brief who’s making a career out of failure

By Russell Findlay April 23 2006 Sunday Mail

THIS is the high-flying solicitor at the centre of a remarkable 12 negligence claims.

John O’Donnell, 54, makes a comfortable living from conducting complicated property transactions.

But we can reveal insurers Royal & Sun Alliance have already been forced to pay out £350,000 on seven negligence claims against him. And at least five more worth £200,000 are still being contested. His firm, John G O’Donnell & Co, is based in Cathcart, Glasgow. The Law Society for Scotland, who govern the conduct of lawyers, keep his record of complaints a secret.

O’Donnell has also been accused of misconduct but the Law Society, â„¢ has not brought any cases to the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal. The claims centre on complicated transactions involving property and mortgages. 9 One case settled with an £81,000 payout involved Glasgow boxing promoter Alex Morrison, 67, for whom O’Donnell acted in the 2002 sale of his Sydney Street gym to Scottish Enterprise for £130,000. The sale money should have gone to Morrison’s offshore firm, Decafarm Ltd, but was instead issued to O’Donnell’s.

Decafarm complained to Strathclyde Police fraud squad but the procurator fiscal decided not to prosecute. 9 In other cases, his clients took out two mortgages on property and sold the property, paying off one mortgage. The others lender then had to pursue the solicitor for negligence to get their money back – and his insurance paid out.

Last night, ex-SNP leader and legal reform campaigner John Swinney said: “This appears a clear example of why a robust and independent complaints handling system is required. I hope forthcoming legislation to be considered by Parliament will address these issues.”

Peter Cherbi, of Injustice Scotland, said: “If you buy a tin of beans, you can see the ingredients on the label. If you’re paying a solicitor, you should be aware of what he or she has been up to. I’m also asking Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson to revoke the exemption of the Law Society of Scotland from the Freedom of Information Act.”

Last month, it emerged that complaints against lawyers had risen 30 per cent in a year to almost 5000. But a Law Society of Scotland spokesman said: “The consumer protections for clients of Scottish solicitors are second to none.”

Last night, a legal firm issued a statement on his behalf. It read: During 2000-2002, John O’Donnell received treatment for a mental illness. He was diagnosed with clinical depression. During those dark days, Mr O’Donnell accepts his own high standards slipped. Indeed, when making a determination, the Law Society of Scotland makes reference to his illness, citing this as ‘extenuating circumstances’. “In 2003, Mr O’Donnell started a new legal practice and has many loyal and satisfied clients.”

Two years ago, the Sunday Mail revealed that O’Donnell’s office was searched by police as part of a money-laundering probe into McGovern crime family lieutenant, Russell Stirton, 46.

Where there's a will there's a crook - Sunday Mail November 28 2010Remember Remember – Where there’s a will there’s a crook. Suspension from legal practice is, however, no deterrence for crooks to come back and rip off people and their wills, as a recent Sunday Mail article exposed the case of the former jailed lawyer Valerie Macadam, now Valerie Penny returned from legal oblivion & started her own will writing business without telling her new clients she was jailed for embezzlement. Quoting from the Sunday Mail article :  “A CROOKED lawyer jailed for stealing money from dead clients is back in business, we can reveal. Valerie Penny, 54, runs a slick website to lure customers into handing over £80 for wills. She is selling the same legal services she used to steal £130,000 from clients and their estates – a catalogue of dishonesty that landed her in prison. The struck-off solicitor, who was called Macadam before her marriage, boasts of her “successful career”. But she makes no mention of her jail time for robbing clients’ cash or her shocking record of professional misconduct.”

Philip YellandMisplaced trust with complaints : Philip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s Director of Regulation for over 20 years yet Scotland has more crooked lawyers than ever. Philip Yelland, the Law Society of Scotland’s director of standards, previously director of regulation and before that head of the Law Society’s horrifically named “Client Relations Office” has been in charge of regulating crooked lawyers in Scotland for over TWENTY YEARS yet from Penman to the present and beyond, most crooked Scottish lawyers have either received a slap on the wrist or no punishment at all while the client ends up financially ruined and excluded from the courts to make sure justice can never be done. Would you trust anyone like this with your complaint ? Make sure you use the media first before trusting the Law Society or SLCC with your lawyer problems.

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

UK Supreme Court backs Asbestos Pleural Plaques compensation in Scotland, defeating Insurance industry & lawyers who argued “Asbestos is good for you”

sgspTriumph for progressive politics’ as UK Supreme Court defeats insurers challenge to Scots 2009 law allowing asbestos pleural plaques victims right to compensation.  IF A LAWYER stopped you in the street and said to you “Asbestos related Cancer is good for you” you may be inclined to think their clients (and the lawyer) have a vested interest in ending your life. Today, that very notion put to msps by Insurance industry lawyers at the Scottish Parliament in 2008 in a desperate effort to block compensation for Asbestos related illnesses was nowhere to be heard as judges at the UK’s Supreme Court DISMISSED the Insurance industry’s legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009 which aims to ensure those who suffer from the Asbestos related condition of Pleural Plaques receive the compensation they are due.

The Supreme Court judges decided unanimously that the Scottish Parliament had acted within the scope of its powers when it passed the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009, legislation that offered those who have pleural plaques the opportunity to claim compensation. The Act has been subject to lengthy legal challenge by a group of insurers who even used the Human Rights Act (ECHR) to argue the legislation passed by Holyrood which reinstated claims for Asbestos related pleural Plaques after the House of Lords sided with the Insurance industry over the Pleural Plaques compensation issue in 2007, was against the “Human Rights” of the insurance industry.

The full judgement from the Supreme Court can be downloaded here : Supreme Court Judgement in AXA General Insurance Limited and others (Appellants) v The Lord Advocate and others (Respondents) (Scotland) (pdf)

I reported on the insurance industry’s decision to challenge the decision at the UK’s Supreme Court in an earlier article here : Supreme Court to decide if Asbestos related Pleural Plaques ‘are good for you’ as Insurers challenge Scottish Govt & Holyrood’s law making powers and in that earlier article, a Freedom of Information request by Diary of Injustice to the Scottish Government established the insurers legal challenge had forced a massive expenditure of £341,857.79 of public funds by the Scottish Government on lawyers legal fees defending against the Insurers, who have already lost two challenges against the new law at Scotland’s Court of Session. I trust the insurers will be forced to repay every penny to the public purse, and then some.

The Scottish Government issued a statement welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss a legal challenge to a popular Act of the Scottish Parliament with Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill urging the insurance companies to pay up to asbestos victims. The Minister said the failure of the legal case, brought by a group of insurers, was a “triumph for progressive politics” that would bring great comfort to workers that have developed pleural plaques, brought on by exposure to asbestos.

Kenny MacAskillScotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said : “I warmly welcome this significant decision, not least for the sake of people with pleural plaques and all those who campaigned so vigorously to help them. It has always been our belief that the legislation is right in principle and right in law and I am pleased that it has been unequivocally upheld. The Scottish Government’s Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act was passed with overwhelming support in the Scottish Parliament, and today’s decision is a triumph for the progressive politics that saw parties unite to do the right thing and help those that have developed pleural plaques as a result of negligent exposure to asbestos.

Mr MacAskill continued : “We firmly believe that people with this condition should be able to raise a claim for damages, and we are delighted that this decision has gone in their favour – a result that will surely bring them some comfort. It is our sincere hope that the insurers will now reflect carefully on the decisions reached by the Scottish Parliament, by both the Outer and Inner Houses of Scotland’s Court of Session, and now by the UK’s Supreme Court and settle those claims that have been stalled for so long.”

Welcoming the Supreme Court ruling on pleural plaques Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham said : “This is a vindication of the heroic battle by the victims of pleural plaques for fair compensation as well as the work undertaken by MSPs of more than one political party to legislate for justice. The skill and expertise of Thompsons Solicitors has also been central to this victory. The insurance companies involved have now stretched and abused the boundaries of due diligence in throwing their resources at an increasingly desperate fight to deny responsibility and it is now time for them to shut up and pay up”

Nick Starling, director of general insurance and health for the Association of British Insurers, said in a statement after the ruling: “Insurers remain fully committed to continuing to pay compensation to people with asbestos-related conditions, such as mesothelioma The insurers brought this case because they believe that the Damages Act is fundamentally flawed in that it ignores overwhelming medical evidence that pleural plaques are symptomless, and the well-established legal principle that compensation is payable only when there is physical harm.We are very disappointed that the court has not found in our favour on this important principle of law. Insurers will now consider carefully this judgment and what it means for them.”

richard keen qcInsurers legal team was headed by Richard Keen QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. The ruling comes after a long & bitter fight through the Scottish courts from the insurers Avira, AXA Insurance, Zurich and the infamous Royal Sun Alliance (who also insure all Scottish solicitors via the Master Policy), and their lawyers Brodies LLP. Earlier, the insurers who were seeking to block the legislation at the Scottish Parliament, used lawyers from another Edinburgh law firm, Simpson & Marwick who told MSPs their understanding was “Pleural Plaques are good for you”. However, the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009 was passed into law and the insurers then challenged the legislation through the Scottish Courts using a variety of Edinburgh law firms & even the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates himself Richard Keen QC. After legal action failed in Scotland, the insurers and their lawyers took the case to the UK Supreme Court on Human Rights grounds and finally today, lost their legal challenge.

Let us remember the depths of the arguments put before the Scottish Parliament to prevent Asbestos victims claiming compensation :

Representing the insurers argument, Dr Pamela Abernethy of Simpson & Marwick told the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee Pleural Plaques ‘are good for you’ (Click image or HERE to watch video)

Insurance companies put up stiff resistance to the legislation, a number of them backing up the notion Pleural Plaques & Asbestos are good for you (Click image or HERE to watch video)

Exposure to asbestos can result in the development of a number of conditions, including pleural plaques (i.e. scarring of the membranes around the lungs). This condition is generally asymptomatic, though it does indicate that asbestos fibres have lodged in the body and caused a physiological reaction. Medical evidence is that “people with pleural plaques are at risk of developing diffuse pleural thickening causing breathlessness, asbestosis of the lungs causing breathlessness, lung cancer which is usually fatal and mesothelioma, a cancer which can occur in the lining of the chest cavity or in the lining of the abdominal cavity which is almost invariably fatal, usually within 12 to 18 months of the first symptoms. People with pleural plaques who have been heavily exposed to asbestos at work have a risk of mesothelioma more than one thousand times greater than the general population.

From the 1980s onwards, where pleural plaques arose from negligent exposure to asbestos, Courts throughout the UK made compensation awards; those awards were paid by the negligent party or their insurer. On October 17, 2007, however, the House of Lords ruled in respect of a number of cases in England that asymptomatic pleural plaques do not give rise to a cause of action under the law of damages. The House of Lords ruling is not binding in Scotland, but would be considered highly persuasive by Scottish Courts.

In November 2007 the Scottish Government announced its intention to bring forward legislation to ensure that the House of Lords ruling would not have effect in Scotland. In June, 2008, the Scottish Government introduced the Damages (Asbestos-related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill. The Bill was passed in March 2009, got Royal Assent the following month, and came fully into force in June 2009.

The Outer House decision on judicial review was announced on January 8, 2010, which I reported here : Lord Emslie defeats legal challenge over pleural plaques as Insurers ‘big name’ legal team fail to overturn Holyrood’s Asbestos compensation law with the Inner House decision announced on April 12, 2011.

My previous coverage of the Damages (Asbestos-related  Conditions) (Scotland) Act 2009 can be found here : The Scottish Parliament, Asbestos, Pleural Plaques and a Supreme Court victory for the Scottish Government

So, the next time a lawyer tries to tell you “Asbestos is good for you” or “Cancer is good for you”, you know what to think of them, don’t you

 

Tags: , , , , , ,