YOU’RE FIRED: A LITIGATOR ON THE APPRENTICE 8: “THE BIGGEST ATTEMPT AT ROBBERY SINCE HATTON GARDEN”: DID OUR LAWYER GET THEIR HANDS DIRTY?

We have one surviving lawyer – Sarah Ann. This week she switched teams – to “Collaborative” and turned her hand to garden design, even getting her hands dirty in the process. Her team won.  This series continues for another week.

WEEDING OUT THE WEAKEST

The urban gardening industry is worth £5 billion a year. The teams wanted their own patch on this.  They each had a “rooftop” garden to design together with the chance to try their hand at freelance gardening. One team had a pricing policy so extravagant that Lord Sugar thought it was daylight robbery.

BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE

On the whole the teams did not do well. One team managed to quote a price for a job that was considerably lower than the sum they spent on plants.  A team got thrown out because they left a place looking worse than when they started, unable to operate the jet wash they simply “pushed mud around”. Both discovered the jet-washing can be remarkably soothing, it is also remarkably hard to do properly – abathey just “pushed the mud around”.  The attitude of “Get in and get out as soon as possible” was not one that was likely to put down firm roots for any business.

LIFE IN THE URBAN JUNGLE

I would like to see Sarah-Ann’s garden. She suggested “mirrors” and “statement planters” [which I’m hoping has nothing to do with drafting witness statements].  A garden was created which looked OK but was not practical.  It turned out that artificial turf costs far more than anyone thought it would. Sarah Ann stood by and helped lift the artificial turf on to the bar. I didn’t actually see Sarah getting her hands dirty.  There again astro turf is is not going to lead to muddy fingers.

The client’s comments.

“It looks really pretty, what you’ve done is a logistical nightmare”.

“Why is there bark everywhere”

Still Sarah Ann’s team won the task and that is what matters.  I have to watch the programme for at least one more week.

 

GARDENING AND THE LITIGATION LAWYER

In London Organising Committee of the Olympic And Paralympic Games (LOCOG) v Sinfield [2018] EWHC 51 (QB) Mr Justice Julian Knowles allowed an appeal and found that a claimant had been fundamentally dishonest in a personal injury case.  This is an interesting example of gardening, and a gardener, being important in relation to a claim for damages.  It is a cautionary tale for both litigator and litigant.

The claimant made a substantial claim for the additional costs of gardening.

    1. At para 5 the Preliminary Schedule stated:

“5. Gardener

The Claimant has a 2 acre garden. Prior to the accident the Claimant looked after the garden himself with his wife. Post accident his wife continues to do some of the gardening but they had to employ a gardener for 2-4 hours per week at a cost of £13 per hour. Throughout the Winter months the gardener tends to do only 2 hours per week and during the Spring/Summer months this increases to 4 hours per week.”

    1. For the period from 9 September 2012 to the date of the schedule a figure of £4992 plus £79.87 interest was served, making a total of £5071.87.

    2. At para 8 the Preliminary Schedule stated:

“8. Gardening

The Claimant would probably at some point have required assistance with gardening and employed a gardener in any event whilst continuing to do some work himself. Presuming the Claimant’s ability to carry out gardening would have reduced as he got older, perhaps managing 2 hours per week initially future gardening is claimed at one hour per week.”

    1. Damages under this head for future gardening losses were claimed at £13 per week, ie £677.86 per year, with an appropriate multiplier of 13.22, producing a figure of £8961.31.

    2. The total value of the claim for gardening was therefore £13953.31 (£4992 + £8961.31), excluding interest. The total value of the special damages claimed was £33 340.86, meaning that the gardening claim represented some 41.9% of the total special damages claim as presented on this Schedule.

    3. In due course, liability was admitted and damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity were agreed at £16 000. Thus, the gardening claim represented about 28% of the damages claim overall.

    4. In January 2016 LOCOG served its Defence. On 25 August 2016 Mr Sinfield served his List of Documents. That stated:

“I certify that I understand the duty of disclosure and to the best of my knowledge I have carried out that duty. I further certify that the list of documents set out in or attached to this form, is a complete list of all documents which are or have been in my control and which I am obliged under the order to disclose.

I understand that I must inform the court and the other parties immediately if any further document required to be disclosed by Rule 31.6 comes into my control at any time before the conclusion of the case.”

    1. Items 14 – 15 on the List were described as ‘Invoices Mervyn Price – Gardener’ for the periods October – November 2012 and March – November 2013 respectively. Items 16 – 20 were described as ‘Invoices Dan Hardy – Gardener’ for the periods March – November 2014, March – November 2015, March – May 2016, June 2016 and July 2016, respectively.

    2. These invoices thus purported to be from the gardeners who tended Mr Sinfield’s garden. To take one of the invoices with Mr Price’s name on it as an example, it purports to be an invoice for July 2013 from ‘Mervyn Price, 29 Finsbury Road, Luton, Beds’ in the sum of £208.

    3. In September 2016 a further Schedule of Damages was served by Mr Sinfield maintaining (with adjustments due to the date) the claims for past and future gardening losses. The figure claimed for gardening on this Schedule was £14 785.31, exclusive of interest.

    4. On 17 October 2016 Mr Sinfield served his first Witness Statement. Paragraph 30 was as follows:

“30. Pre-accident Christine and I did all the gardening. We have a 2 acre garden which needs a lot of upkeep. Christine still does some of the garden but it is impossible for her to do it alone and so we now employ a gardener. Over the winter months the gardener only does a couple of hours per week but in the summer months this increases to 4 hours per week.”

THE EVIDENCE FROM THE GARDENER

The defendants were not asleep. They took a witness statement from the gardener. His evidence contradicted that of the claimant.

    1. In light of the disclosure provided LOCOG made enquiries and located and approached Mr Price, the gardener. A witness statement was taken from him dated 29 September 2016 and he gave evidence at the trial. He said that he had worked for Mr Sinfield and his wife since May 2005. He said that the invoices which Mr Sinfield had produced had not been issued by him.Among other things, at para 4 of his witness statement he pointed out that the address on them was incorrect. He said that between May 2005 and March 2014, when he retired, he worked four hours per week, eleven months of the year, excluding January, at £13 per hour. His work did not change after Mr Sinfield’s accident. At para 14 of his witness statement he said:

“14. I do not know why Mr Sinfield says that prior to his accident in September 2012 he and his wife looked after the garden themselves but following the accident he had to employ a gardener. This is just not true and I felt that it was important to provide this statement to set out the correct position.”