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Filing Tips To Help Avoid Expensive Negligence Claims

The F word


Hands up who gets excited about filing?

Me neither; but there are few costlier mistakes than incomplete records.

A client of mine learnt this the hard way when buying a nursing home. She thought she was buying outright, but the seller wanted to retain an interest. Unfortunately my client’s lawyer went on holiday just before the deal was finalised, leaving the file in a mess. The stand-in lawyer thought the seller’s interest was all agreed so confirmed it.

My client knew nothing about this until well after completion. You can imagine how shocked she was when told about the seller’s interest.

It took time to unravel the mistake (expensive and extensive litigation with the seller) and my client also took a negligence claim to court over whether or not she had been told of the seller’s interest and the judge decided in her favour. More than a decade of litigation later the solicitor eventually had to pay hundreds of thousands for the claim as well as the legal fees.

Sometimes people are reluctant to take over another file because of the amount of time it takes to ascertain all the relevant information.  However file management is in a category of its own!  Consider the time it took to unravel the mistake mentioned above regarding the nursing home and also the negligence claim against the limited time it takes to manage a file.

Filing tips to consider:-

  • Marking critical dates on the front of the file as well as in the diary system.
  • A clear audit trial of financial transactions.
  • Clearly identify the files.
  • Perhaps a system whereby each professional has a designated colleague for who’s work he is responsible for in the others absence.
  • Clear attendance notes on identifiable paper which is in a different colour from the correspondence?
  • Often there are successive draft documents, and this is a particular bug bear for me.  These drafts should be clearly numbered and dated to ensure that the correct draft is worked on.
  • As I said in my earlier tip, sometimes you can’t prepare for sudden illnesses, but up to date filing makes it much easier for colleagues to pick up where you left off and making a simple checklist at the front of the file of what steps are being taken and what stage has been reached, a note on the file of what needs doing and when and having regular file audits.

If you need any advice or help, contact Karim.


Just in case you missed the other tips: