A High Court judge has found that Lewis Silkin was negligent in advising Tim Wright, the former CEO of an Indian Premier League cricket franchise, on his employment contract and has handed down a judgment for damages of £2m against the firm.
Wright, who was installed as CEO of Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited in 2008 after the group bought a cricket franchise to launch in the now lucrative annual Indian Twenty20 cricket tournament, was fired following the financial crash but his advisers had not included a jurisdiction clause in his £10m severance guarantee.
Wright had instructed Lewis Silkin’s joint head of employment Michael Burd to advise him draw up the necessary paperwork ahead of taking the post.
After being dismissed, it took more than two years for the jurisdiction battle to be finally determined in Wright’s favour and, despite obtaining a judgment from the High Court in 2012, his attempts to enforce it have been snarled up in the Indian courts. Wright claimed that had his contract contained an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of England and Wales, then he would have had a judgment earlier and a real and substantive chance of forcing Deccan to pay the award.
While Burd claimed that the absence of a jurisdiction clause in Wright’s contract was a deliberate omission after he had advised the on the ‘pros and cons’ of specifying a particular jurisdiction, Wright claimed no such advice was ever given.
Last week Mr Justice Hamblen ruled that Burd had given no such advice and had ‘reconstructed’ his memory on a number of occasions since the matter was first brought to his attention in 2009.
In awarding Wright £2m in damages, the judge held that the claimant had a real and substantive chance of enforcing the £10.3m judgment obtained in 2012 at the High Court in London, had he not been given negligent advice. He ruled: ‘I find that Mr Burd did not advise Mr Wright in relation to jurisdiction matters. Alternatively, if he did, he did not do so in sufficiently clear and explicit terms for Mr Wright to appreciate that this was an issue and, moreover, one which required consideration and advice. In all the circumstances I find that Lewis Silkin was in breach of duty in failing to advise Mr Wright properly or at all in relation to jurisdiction matters.’
Wright was represented by Nicholas Davidson QC of 4 New Square and Muhammed Haque QC of Crown Office Chambers, who were instructed by Rosenblatt disputes partner Simon Walton. Lewis Silkin was represented by Michael Pooles QC of Hailsham Chambers and George Spalton of 4 New Square, who were instructed by DWF disputes partner John Bennett.
A spokesperson for Lewis Silkin said: ‘We are naturally very disappointed with the judgment. The claim relates to advice given more than six years ago in 2008, and in relation to which Mr Burd was found by the judge to be a truthful witness. The claim has been vigorously defended and the amount awarded is substantially less than the amount sought by the claimant, who lost on his primary claim relating to security. We are carefully considering our position in relation to the judgment and in particular the possibility of an appeal.’