An architect and project manager has been sued for damages of £265,000 on a job that they did free of charge.
In the case of Lejonvarn v Burgess, Mr and Mrs Burgess employed their friend and former neighbour, Mrs Lejonvarn, to assist with an extensive landscaping project in their garden. They did not enter into a contract however and, when they were left unhappy with the quality and progress of the work, claimed damages of £265,000. The court, supported by the Court of Appeal, found that the architect owed a duty of care which arose on the basis of an assumption of responsibility. Mrs Lejonvarn offered her skills knowing that Mr and Mrs Burgess would expect and need a quality service. She did not have to provide the services, but to the extent that she did, she owed a duty to exercise reasonable skill and care in the provision of them.
Whilst this case was unusual in that the project was significant and the architect’s services were being provided over a relatively long period of time, it is a useful reminder to professionals to consider their potential liability before giving gratuitous advice as it may come back to bite you!