Blacklock and A.J.M. Blacklock & Sons (Jersey) Ltd v Perrier & Labesse

JurisdictionJersey
CourtRoyal Court
Judge(Crill, Deputy Bailiff and Jurats Le Quesne and Lucas):
Judgment Date21 August 1980
Date21 August 1980
ROYAL COURT
(Crill, Deputy Bailiff and Jurats Le Quesne and Lucas):

F.C. Hamon for the plaintiffs;

L.A. Wheeler for the defendants.

Advocates—duties to client—conveyancing—standard of care of écrivain no less than that of reasonably prudent English solicitor—duty to give all relevant information about property to client, ensure he has sufficient information and understands it, so that can make up own mind on instructions to give

Contract—damages—measure of damages—double compensation to be avoided—plaintiff to elect between claiming actual expenditure and loss of future profits—if elect to claim lost profits may also claim actual expenditure on legal costs incurred by defendant's breach of duty

Planning Law—compulsory purchase—searches and inquiries—advocate acting for purchaser of land subject to compulsory purchase order in breach of duty to client if fails to disclose exact planning situation and leads client to believe that land free from threat of compulsory purchase

CRILL, DEPUTY BAILIFF:Mr. Blacklock is a jeweller in Watford. In 1972 he decided to open a business in Jersey. He also wanted to acquire a residence in the Island. He consulted Mr. J.C. Tibbo of the Midland Bank, Library Place, who in January, 1973, introduced him to Messrs. Perrier & Labesse, Advocates, then of Bond Street Chambers. Advocate Labesse is the remaining partner today of that firm. Most, if not all, of Mr. Blacklock's legal affairs in Jersey were handled by Mr. F.N. Morcombe, a member of Messrs. Perrier & Labesse's staff who, although not an Advocate or Solicitor, had had several years of experience in dealing with the sort of transactions requested by Mr. Blacklock. Perrier & Labesse formed a company for Mr. Blacklock in April 1973 which is now the second plaintiff. The client was shown a number of properties through Mr. T.J. Williams an Estate Agent and the Senior Partner in Messrs. William Bull & Co., to whom Perrier & Labesse introduced Mr. Blacklock, and finally settled on No. 20, Charing Cross, St. Helier. There was a tenant of the property who had some years to run on her lease. She had to be bought out and negotiations for this purpose and for a new contract lease of 21 years were undertaken. Initially all correspondence was to be sent to Mr. Blacklock through Mr. Tibbo.

Messrs. Perrier & Labesse wrote to Mrs. Hicks the owner of 20, Charing Cross, with proposals on behalf of Mr. Blacklock. Messrs. Mourant, du Feu & Jeune were the Solicitors acting for Mrs. Hicks. On the 2nd July, 1973, they wrote to Messrs. Perrier & Labesse, the relevant part of their letter was the last paragraph which read:

"The Authorities of the Island from time to time suggest acquisition of this and surrounding properties. We do not believe however that any definite decision has been arrived at. Would this effect your client's application for exterior changes and a new shop front ."

Alerted by it Mr. Morcombe telephoned to Mr. Williams. He then confirmed their conversation by letter of the 3rd July as follows:

"Dear Mr. Williams,

Re: Hairdressing Establishment—20 Charing Cross

Further to our telephone conversation of Monday, I am pleased to say that we have now heard from the Landlord's Solicitors, with regard to the granting of a new twenty-one year contract lease of these premises.

You will see that in essence Mrs. Hicks is sympathetic to the proposals, providing that Mr. Blacklock in turn would agree some modifications to the terms and conditions of the lease. I am therefore taking Mr. Blacklock's instructions on this, though probably the most important point that has emerged from their letter is the possible difficulty in obtaining I.D.C. consent to a new Shop Front, exterior and interior changes, if the relevant authorities were interested in acquiring the property and neighbouring properties as part of an overall development. I think possibly the danger has now passed, but nevertheless it is a point which must be taken up with the I.D.C. before we go any further.

I have sent a copy of this letter, together with my reply, to Mr. Tibbo at the Midland Bank, and will be in touch with you, just as soon as we receive further instructions from Mr. Blacklock.

Yours sincerely,

p.p. Perrier and Labesse,

F.N. MORCOMBE."

It is not clear to us what exactly was said on the telephone between Mr. Williams and Mr. Morcombe. Mr. Williams appeared to think that because he had been asked on previous occasions to value properties on behalf of the States, including 20, Charing Cross, and often nothing further had occurred, that the States were no longer interested in acquiring 20, Charing Cross. At any rate, Mr. Morcombe replied to Mr. Williams, as we have said, and also to Mourant, du Feu & Jeune and sent copies of three letters, namely that of Mourant, du Feu & Jeune of the 2nd July, his letter to Mr. Williams and his reply to Mourant, du Feu & Jeune of the 4th July, under a covering letter of the 3rd July to Mr. Tibbo. The third paragraph of his letter to Mourant, du Feu & Jeune is as follows:

"With regard to the last paragraph of your letter, we were aware that the relevant authorities had considered acquiring this and neighbouring premises, but now understand that this danger is past, though obviously we would need in any case to obtain outline approval to the changes which Mr. Blacklock proposes to make to the exterior and interior of the premises."

The third paragraph of the covering letter to Mr. Tibbo reads:

"The only point that concerns me is that we may encounter difficulties from the I.D.C. putting in a new Shop Front, and generally modifying the premises to suit Mr. Blacklock's requirements. It would seem to me that the premises are no use to Mr. Blacklock unless he can do what he proposes, and I would therefore strongly suggest that with the aid of a local Architect, he should make an appointment to see the Local Planning Officer to explore any possible difficulties. He can then go ahead with the appropriate safeguards, or withdraw, depending on how matters work out."

He told us that all three letters from him were dictated on 3rd July, but sent to Mr. Tibbo on 4th July, the date on which the letter of that date to Mourant, du Feu & Jeune was typed by his Secretary. Mr. Blacklock was handed copies of all the correspondence some days later and on the 9th July Mr. Morcombe claimed that he had a telephone conversation with Mr. Tibbo about the terms of the lease but there is no mention of any details of such a conversation in Mr. Morcombe's diary sheet or Mr. Tibbo's own note. However on the 10th July Mr. Tibbo wrote to Mr. Morcombe as follows:

"Dear Mr. Morcombe,

Re: Hairdressing Establishment—20 Charing Cross—A.J. Blacklock

Thank you for your letter of 3rd July and I refer to our telephone conversation of yesterday.

As advised to you Mr. Blacklock is at present on holiday on the Island and he called today when we were able to give him the photostat copies of your letters which you had kindly enclosed. Mr. Blacklock has now gone away to think the whole matter over and it is possible that he will contact Mrs. Hicks to see if a middle path can be found with regard to the above-mentioned property.

As soon as I have any further information I will advise you accordingly and in the meantime please accept our thanks and those of Mr. Blacklock for all your assistance.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

J.C. Tibbo

Assistant Manager."

Unfortunately for all concerned, the States, far from dropping any plans for acquiring 20, Charing Cross, on 1st May, 1973, had approved a Proposition of the Island Development Committee to acquire properties in the Dumaresq Street area, including No. 20, Charing Cross—if necessary by compulsory purchase. That Proposition and decision were recorded in full in the States' Minutes which are available to the public at the States Greffe.

Mr. J.H. Richards, an Architect, was instructed to prepare plans to submit to the I.D.C. for the installation of a new shop front based on Mr. Blacklock's Watford premises. The lease which was being negotiated as we have said, was to be in the name of a company formed by Mr. Blacklock which is the second plaintiff in this action. Mr. Richards was not asked by Advocate Labesse or Mr. Morcombe to enquire about the question of compulsory purchase from the Island Development Committee nor were any enquiries made by Perrier & Labesse direct to the Planning Office, to the Public Works Office, or to the Greffe. The reason was that, according to Mr. Labesse who gave evidence, it was better to use the application for a reasonably innocuous purpose to "flush out" any lurking propensities of the I.D.C. for compulsory purchasing 20, Charing Cross. That purpose was not explained to Mr. Blacklock in so many words.

By December, 1973, the owner and the tenant of 20, Charing Cross, were pressing for completion of the arrangements. The I.D.C. however had not yet replied or given its consent to the application by Mr. Blacklock's company for the new shop front. Also by this time Mr. Labesse had been brought up to date with the matter by Mr. Morcombe. He decided that his firm would not pass the contract lease on behalf of the second plaintiff, which of course had been incorporated by Messrs. Perrier & Labesse, nor appear as guarantor on behalf of Mr. Blacklock for the company's obligations under the lease unless Mr. Blacklock authorised the transaction in writing. Mr. Blacklock did so by telegram and on 14th December the contract was passed, the existing tenant abandoning the rest of her lease. One of the clauses in the lease required Mr. Blacklock's company to spend at least £10,000 on the fabric of the property.

On the 11th December, unknown to any party, the I.D.C. had decided to reject Mr. Blacklock's company's application. It did so for the following reason:

"1. The proposed works would impede the successful...

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