Midlands award winning law firm Sydney Mitchell LLP is delighted to announce that Suzanna Patalong and Robert Haggis have joined its Corporate and Commercial Team.

Suzanna specialises in commercial law and Robert is a Barrister with extensive experience in both corporate and commercial law including supply and distribution agreements, business acquisitions and software licensing.

Sydney Mitchell LLP Solicitors Corporate Team Expansion Birmingham and West Midlands

IMAGE: Corporate Team (from left to right) - Pictured - Adam Ivory (Apprentice), Robert Haggis (Barrister), Shilpa Unarkat (Associate), Div Singh (Senior Partner), Fahmida Ismail (Partner), Roy Colaba (Associate) Suzanna Patalong (Solicitor) (Stewart Coles – Associate (not pictured))

Suzanna has worked previously at some of the large law firms in Birmingham, and joined Sydney Mitchell LLP from Else Solicitors LLP.  Robert joins the team from LGP Solicitors.

Suzanna commented on her appointment: “Sydney Mitchell is a well-respected law firm with over 250 years delivering legal services in the West Midlands. I am really enjoying working with the team in Birmingham.”

Robert added: “Having worked with international oil companies, major chemical and industrial gas supply companies and small medium sized businesses, I hope to bring a wealth of experience of benefit to Sydney Mitchell clients.”

The Corporate and Commercial team at Sydney Mitchell is led by Fahmida Ismail.

Fahmida Ismail, Partner, commented: “We are pleased to have such highly skilled talent join our established team in the West Midlands and look forward to developing and expanding our offering to our clients, locally, nationally and internationally.”

Suzanna is based in the Birmingham office and Robert in the Shirley office.  All have a wealth of experience in dealing with individuals and corporate and commercial clients.

Sydney Mitchell LLP has offices in Birmingham City Centre, Sheldon, Shirley and facilities in Sutton Coldfield.

A triple for Sydney Mitchell

Midlands award winning law firm Sydney Mitchell LLP is delighted to announce that they have made a number of senior appointments and promotions.  Suzanna Patalong and Robert Haggis have joined their expanding Corporate and Commercial Team and Jade Linton has been promoted to Associate in the Employment Law team.

Suzanna specialises in commercial law and Robert is a Barrister with extensive experience in both corporate and commercial law including supply and distribution agreements, business acquisitions and software licensing.

Suzanna has worked previously at some of the large law firms in Birmingham, and joined Sydney Mitchell LLP from Else Solicitors LLP.  Robert previously headed the Commercial Property team at LGP Solicitors.

Suzanna commented on her appointment: “Sydney Mitchell is a well-respected law firm with over 250 years delivering legal services in the West Midlands. I am really enjoying working with the team in Birmingham.”

Robert added: “Having worked with international oil companies, major chemical and industrial gas supply companies and small medium sized businesses, I hope to bring a wealth of experience of benefit to Sydney Mitchell clients.”

Jade commented: “The Sydney Mitchell Employment Department is a beacon of legal excellence and client care in the West Midlands and I am delighted to be part of the team.”

The Corporate and Commercial team at Sydney Mitchell is led by Fahmida Ismail.

Fahmida Ismail, Partner, commented: “We are pleased to have such highly skilled talent join our established team in the West Midlands and look forward to developing and expanding our offering to our clients, locally, nationally and internationally.”

Suzanna is based in the Birmingham office and Robert and Jade in the Shirley office.  All have a wealth of experience in dealing with individuals and corporate and commercial clients.

Sydney Mitchell LLP has offices in Birmingham City Centre, Sheldon, Shirley and facilities in Sutton Coldfield.

 

A recent case has highlighted that it is of little use to have some fantastic Terms & Conditions prepared for your business, if your sales team are not trained to ensure that your contracts with your customers and suppliers, are governed by your Terms & Conditions. 

If your customers and suppliers have their own Terms & Conditions, they will do their best to ensure that theirs apply to the contracts between you.  A 2015 case (Transformers and Rectifiers Ltd v Needs Ltd [2015] EWHC 269 (TCC)) showed that, if neither company has proper procedures in place, then it may be that neither company’s Terms & Conditions will apply.  If no Terms & Conditions apply to the contract for the sale of goods, the contract will be governed by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (SGA), which imposes some implied terms on such contracts.  A supplier’s Terms & Conditions will usually seek to vary the effect of these implied terms, and limit or exclude the supplier’s liability that could arise otherwise.

Standard Terms & Conditions should, of course, deal with a company’s liabilities, as well as setting out the terms that would apply to ordering, delivery, payment etc.  However, the company’s internal processes should also make sure that the Terms & Conditions are incorporated into its contracts.  This is a matter that will depend exclusively on how the company’s office employees work.  Where do the Terms & Conditions appear?  Do customers and suppliers actually see a copy of the Terms & Conditions?  How do employees reply to orders placed?  How do they respond to queries from customers and suppliers?  The answer to the problem of incorporation of your Terms & Conditions into your contracts could even be as simple as amending everyone’s signature block, so that all emails sent out refer to the company’s Terms & Conditions.

For a review of your current Terms & Conditions and order processes, or for further information, please contact Suzanna Patalong at Sydney Mitchell on 0121 698 2200 or s.patalong@sydneymitchell.co.uk or complete our online enquiry form.

In a decision that will be required reading for all professionals, the Court of Appeal has ruled that liability in respect of substandard services does not depend upon the existence of a contract, or even remuneration. The point was made in the case of an architect who helped friends to landscape their garden free of charge.

A couple wished to iron out steep slopes in the garden of their £5 million home and to install restful terraces, paths, lawns and flower beds. They were unhappy with a £150,000 quote from an established landscape gardener and the architect offered her services and employed builders to carry out the work at a lower price.

However, the project was alleged to have gone badly wrong and, after an exchange of acrimonious emails, the builders were ordered off the job. The work was eventually completed by the gardener whose quote had earlier been rejected and the couple blamed the architect for cost overruns and numerous alleged defects. They estimated the value of their claim at £265,000.

A judge found that the architect, despite having provided her services for free, had assumed responsibility for the work and had ultimately hoped to benefit from her involvement in such a prestigious project. Despite the absence of a contract, it was fair, just and reasonable to find that she owed the couple a duty of care.

In rejecting the architect’s challenge to that ruling, the Court of Appeal noted that her relationship with the couple was not merely informal or social and that the context was a professional one. She had voluntarily tendered skilled professional services in circumstances where she knew that the couple would rely upon her and it was foreseeable that any failure on her part would cause them economic loss. Her duty to employ reasonable care and skill extended to designing and project managing the garden transformation and controlling its cost.

For any further advice, please contact Kamal Majevadia 0121 746 3300 email, k.majevadia@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

Planning decisions often involve a delicate balancing exercise between the benefit that a development will bring and the harm that it will cause. That was certainly so in one case in which the High Court gave its blessing to a football club’s plans for a state-of-the art training facility and academy.

Construction of the two-storey facility would involve major land-levelling works and the import of 180 cubic metres of infill. The 60-acre site chosen was classified as Metropolitan Open Land and the club’s proposals had encountered stiff opposition from local people who were concerned at the loss of public recreational space. The local authority granted planning consent on the basis of an officer’s report that cited the compelling need for the facility and a lack of alternative brownfield sites.

In dismissing a campaigner’s judicial review challenge to that decision, the Court rejected claims that the council’s planning committee had been materially misled by the officer’s report. The impact of floodlighting, noise and the reduction in public access to the land had all been properly taken into account.

For advice please contact Sundeep Bilkhu on 0121 698 2200, email sundeep.bilkhu@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

Long-term sick leave can be a headache for employers, but it is absolutely vital that workers are given every opportunity to get better and return to work. In one case that proved the point, a teacher who was off work for over a year after she was assaulted by a pupil has won the right to compensation following her dismissal.

Although her physical injuries were not serious, the woman – who was head of IT at a large state school – was left badly shaken by the attack. She felt unsafe in parts of the school and believed that her employer was not taking aggressive behaviour by students seriously enough. She was particularly unhappy about a refusal to reinstate an earlier policy to automatically exclude pupils who assaulted staff.

Following further incidents, she went on sick leave and was later diagnosed with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She was off work for more than a year before she was dismissed on the basis that she was incapable of returning to work. That decision was later upheld by an internal appeal panel.

The school accepted that she was disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. An Employment Tribunal upheld her claim that she had been treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of her disability and also ruled that her dismissal was unfair on the ground that it was discriminatory.

The woman had presented the appeal panel with a doctor’s note stating that she was now fit to return to work. She said that she had recently completed a course of therapeutic treatment and felt that she would now be able to cope with any future incidents. In those circumstances, the ET found that the school should have waited a little longer in order to seek clarification of her medical condition before deciding whether or not to dismiss her.

That decision was later overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) and a re-hearing of the case directed. The EAT noted that the woman had a leadership role within the school and that arranging cover during her long absence had serious resource and managerial implications for the school during a period of austerity. The appeal panel had been sympathetic towards her but had justifiably concluded that enough was enough.

In upholding the woman's appeal against the EAT's findings, the Court of Appeal found, by a majority, that the ET had made no error of law and reinstated its findings. The case was finely balanced but the ET was entitled to conclude on the evidence that the dismissal was premature. The amount of the woman’s compensation remains to be assessed and the Court expressed the hope that a settlement might be reached, obviating the need for further proceedings.

Employers who find themselves in this situation are advised to keep a full record of the impact of the employee's continued absence for use as evidence in support of any future decision to end the employment relationship.

For further advice please contact Jade Linton on 0121 746 3300, email j.linton@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form

A recent change to the way in which compensation for seriously injured negligence victims is calculated has led to a dramatic increase in the size of awards – but they are still no more than is needed to ensure that their care needs are met for life.

One case concerned a young cerebral palsy sufferer who will never be able to live independently after he was starved of oxygen during his birth. The NHS trust that managed the hospital where he was delivered admitted full liability for his injuries and issued an apology to him and his family at the High Court.

Following negotiations with the boy’s legal team, the trust agreed to pay a lump sum of £6,874,283, plus index-linked and tax-free annual sums to cover the costs of his lifelong care. Those payments will start at £155,000, rising in steps to £215,000 when he reaches the age of 60. If he attains the age of 70, the total compensation package will be worth around £18 million.

The settlement was negotiated in the light of a change in the discount rate that is applied to compensation awards to take account of the claimant's returns when the lump sum is invested. The discount rate has recently been reduced to minus 0.75 per cent, having previously been unchanged at 2.5 per cent since 2001, to take account of historically low returns on investments.

For further information on this article, please contact Mike Sutton on 0121 698 2200, email m.sutton@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

Private Finance Initiatives (“PFI”) bring the public and private sectors together to complete projects that could not be financially afforded out of the public purse alone. However, in one case concerning a £46 million tourist attraction in a seaside town, a prudent balance had to be struck between commercial confidentiality and the freedom of information.

In this case, the local council loaned £36 million to a single purpose company that developed a high viewing tower as a tourist attraction. The remaining finance was provided by a private sponsor. A member of the public had requested full disclosure of a detailed consultancy report that informed of the council’s decision to enter into this particular PFI. That request was upheld by the Information Commissioner’s Office on the basis that the public interest in disclosure outweighed any potential damage to commercial interests.

In allowing the Council’s appeal against that ruling, the First-tier Tribunal noted that the information sought included pricing information in a highly competitive market and detailed projections of visitor numbers, profits, staffing requirements and overhead costs. Although a large sum of public money was involved in the loan, there was a powerful public interest in transparency. It was held that the council and the company would suffer grave commercial disadvantages from full disclosure.

Please contact Roy Colaba on 0121 698 2200 email, r.colaba@sydneymitchell.co.uk or complete our online enquiry form.

In an important decision for owners of student accommodation or houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), the Court of Appeal has ruled that a licensing condition that restricted occupation of two small attic bedrooms to full-time students was lawful.

The rooms were both located in semi-detached houses owned by the same landlord. The local authority took the view that, due to their sloping ceilings, their usable floor areas fell below its benchmark figure of eight square metres. In licensing both houses as HMOs under the Housing Act 2004, it imposed conditions requiring that neither room should be used as a bedroom on the basis that they were not reasonably suitable for occupation as such.

After the landlord appealed, the First-tier Tribunal found that the rooms were acceptable for use as bedrooms by full-time students and amended the licences accordingly. It did so on the basis that students who were sharing digs could be expected to live cohesively as a group. The houses included sufficient shared space to counter-balance the small size of the attic rooms. That decision was subsequently upheld by the Upper Tribunal.

In dismissing the council’s challenge to the latter ruling, the Court rejected arguments that the physical characteristics of the properties alone were relevant for the purposes of the HMO licensing regime. On a true interpretation of the relevant statutory provisions, the personal characteristics of potential occupiers could also be taken into account. The council’s plea that the 'students only' condition would be incapable of effective enforcement also fell on fallow ground.

For advice please contact Sundeep Bilkhu on 0121 698 2200, email sundeep.bilkhu@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

Winding up petitions are an extremely serious matter for any company and must not be used as a means to apply pressure to pay disputed debts. The Companies Court made that point in granting an injunction that restrained the presentation of a petition in the midst of an ongoing building contract dispute.

A subcontractor who had been employed to carry out ground works claimed to have been underpaid by more than £100,000 for work that it had performed. It served a statutory demand on the contractor and, when that was not satisfied, threatened to launch a winding up petition.

In ruling on the case, the Court noted that it was not its function to try such disputed claims. Winding up petitions were damaging to corporate reputations and seriously impacted on their freedom to carry on business. There was a real risk that petitions might be issued to improperly apply pressure for payment of disputed debts.

In granting the injunction, the Court noted that there was a genuine and substantial dispute between the subcontractor and the contractor as to the value of the works carried out and as to whether any money was in fact owed. There was also a real question as to whether the subcontractor had issued a valid payment application and the contractor had put forward a substantial counterclaim.

For help and advice please contact Leanne Schneider-Rose on 0121 698 2200, email l.schneider-rose@sydneymitchell.co.uk or fill in our online enquiry form.

 

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