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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
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Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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i have lodged a complaint with an ombudsman about the work

Customer Question

i have lodged a complaint with an ombudsman about the work of a solicitor and am being asked the exact date i became unhappy about the work of the firm. What is the significance of this question? Why are they asking for the exact date?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 1 year ago.
Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

May I ask roughly how long ago it was that you did became unhappy?

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

You are asking me a question about my question?

Joshua :

It is helpful if I can apply the actual facts to my response rather than a generic answer. If you prefer not to say I can give you a more generalised response

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

What I need to know please is the significance of their question and where they are going with their questioning. For example if I became unhappy with the services of the solicitors 6 months ago but have only just complained to the ombudsman is this likely to count against me? There must be some significance in them asking for an exact date.

Joshua :

Thanks. The Legal Ombudsman must determine that it is legally able to deal with your complaint. People bringing complaints about negligence against solicitors must do so within strict time limits in law which are known as limitation periods. If a person brings a claim outside of a limitation period it cannot proceed regardless of the merits. This applies both in court and to the Legal Ombudsman. In order to make this determination the Ombudsmand requires evidence of when alleged negligence happened and when you became aware of it. The limitation periods are as follows:

Joshua :

A person has three years to bring a claim for negligence calculated from the point at which they became aware of the negligence or has sufficient facts to be reasonably expected to have been aware of the negligence subject to an overall limitation period of 15 years.

Joshua :

Providing you are within this timeframe, your claim will not be time barred.

Joshua :

Beyond this delays in complaining can potentially count against your claim albeit will not prevent it altogether as is the case if go over a limitation period. If however you delay making a claim unreasonable causing your loss to increase as a result you may be limited to a lower sum calculated to the point at which you could have made a claim if in failing to do so your losses unreasonably increased.

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

But the ombudsman is not dealing with a claim. It is dealing with a complaint. So I am not clear why youreferences to time limits are relevant here.

Joshua :

Are you able to very briefly outline the nature of your complaint - I do not need a great deal of detail but just the bare facts

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

My complaint is about the lack of expertise of the solicitors dealing with my matter. I raised concerns about their handling of my matter during the course of them handling it. Finally I raised a formal complaint with them about it. As I was not satisfied with their response, I have taken it to the Ombudsman. So now the Ombudsam have come back with a question about asking the "exact date when you became unahppy with the work the Firm were doing for you". I would have thouth that they would have taken the "exact date" to be the date when I complained to the firm. But I have in mind that there is some greater significance to their question than I am currently aware of.

Joshua :

Thank you. Has the complained lack of expertise caused you any loss or potential loss?

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

Yes.

Joshua :

Thanks. Although you consider your complaint to the Ombudsman to be a complaint (which it undoubtedly is) rather than a claim for negligence, the LO has the power to award compensation to a client where it finds evidence of negligence (which would include lack of expertise if it is demonstrated that incorrect or miscalulated actions were taken by the solicitor as as result). This is the case even if you have not specifically asked for compensation. Accordingly even if you do not consider your complaint to be a claim it may result in compensation being paid and accordingly is a potential claim for negligence and hence limitation periods are relevant. Beyond this...

Joshua :

notwithstanding the above the Ombudsman as part of its process asks for submissions from both you and the firm in question in order to judge your complaint. As part of this, it will consider how reasonably you acted as a client in particular in respect of your relationship with the fee earner in question.

Joshua :

Ideally you would not have unreasonably delayed making known you concerns with the solicitor though it would not necessarily prejudice your claim unless it could be shown in doing so cause you further loss. I would need to know more about the specifics of your complaint in order to make this determination.

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

I am not sure that I have my answer to my question. Perhaps if I phrase it this way, is there any likelihood that I could be penalised by the ombudsman for failing to complain sooner? Or indeed could I have been taken to have concurred with the actions of the solicitors by failing to complain sooner?

Joshua :

Sorry I think our last posts crossed. Yes as per my last post it is possible that a failure to complain could count against you (though as discussed above it will not prevent your claim). Failure to raise an objection or raise a complaint can be used as a defence by a solicitor depending on the circumstances if it caused you further loss in failing to raise a complaint or if it could have led to a solicitor reasonably believing you were content with he proposed course of action.

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

By complain I mean formally complain. Because there was a period before my formal complaint that I expressed my concerns but did not raise a formal complaint. In which case what would be the "exact date" that I became unhappy? The date I began expressing my concerns? Or the date i rasied a formal complaint?

Joshua :

I would need to explore the specifics of your claim in more detail in order to give you my opinion on the specifics of your complaint as you will appreciate without knowing the specific facts, I cannot give a specific opinion beyond the above generality. If you would like to set out the specifics (omitting any personal information) I would be very happy to give you my view which may be more helpful to you than the above generalisation.

Joshua :

Regarding your last post, providing you raised your concerns, ideally in writing, but failing which it is acknowledged that you raised your concerns, a delay in escalting to a formal complaint should not count againt you...

Joshua :

unless there was then an extended period between your informal and formal complaint which could be reasonably shown to represent that you were satisfied with the solicitors response to your informal concerns.

Joshua :

Does the above answer all your questions or is there anything I can clarify or help you with any further?

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

So you are saying that I was under a duty to raise a formal complaint as soon as possible?

Joshua :

If I may could I suggest that you might tell me a little more about the type of work the solicitor was carrying out for you and the reasons for your initial complaint and the loss it has caused you. The reason I ask is that I sense (quite understandably) that you are seeking some more specific confirmation on your position in your precise circumstances and without this information I am limited in what I can tell you beyond broad generalisations as obviously solicitors cover huge areas of work and a claim in each area will turn on different facts.

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

I believe that I have been specific enough about the matter. I have advised that the matter relates to my being unhappy with their handling of my matter. I do not see that amplifying on that will take the matter further. I have also indicated that I am struggling to understand the reason that the ombudsman have asked the specific question that they have asked as it must carry some significance. It appears from your responses that you are unable to deal with this so whilst I thankyou for taking the time to respond, unless you have something further to add, I am afraid that I am unwilling to make payment as I have not received the advice I was seeking.

Joshua :

Unfortunatley you are asking me for specifics to your situation whilst tying one hand behind my back. Negligence complaints are just too broad for me to say whether your actions could count against you whilst in the dark about what area of law is concerned or some more facts about your case.

Joshua :

All I can say without this information is limited to what I have said above which I recognise is generalisation by necessity given the potential wide material I am covering in those responses.

JACUSTOMER-6tj3ucrs- :

Absolutely not. You do not need the facts of a case to state whether or not I was under a duty to lodge a formal complaint as soon as possible! So no hands being tied behind your back - simply a lack of expertise on your part to deal with specific questions pertaining to this matter and pretending that you require further information to provide a proper response. It appears that we have taken this as far as we can. Many thanks.

Joshua :

Your views are noted.

Joshua :

Good luck with your claim

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