Herbert Smith advised Somatra Limited, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian owned company ABT International Limited, in fending off an appeal by City law firm Sinclair Roche & Temperley (“SRT”). SRT had appealed against the award of approximately $5 million in damages to Somatra by Mr Justice Morison in July 2002. The firm’s total liability, including damages, interest and costs on both sides, could be in the region of £18 million (subject to the Court’s assessment of Somatra’s costs).
Mr Justice Morison held that SRT were negligent in their conduct of a marine insurance claim brought by Somatra against the insurers of its super tanker the “ABT Summer” between 1992 and 1994. He found that as a result Somatra justifiably lost confidence in SRT’s ability to conduct the case and was forced to settle the action with underwriters shortly before the trial at a lower sum than it would otherwise have obtained.
On appeal SRT did not challenge the judge’s findings of negligence (save in one respect which the Court of Appeal dismissed). Instead SRT’s appeal was based on an argument that their negligence made no difference to the settlement Somatra achieved. This argument, and SRT’s appeal, was dismissed by the Court of Appeal. Citing the fact that SRT’s negligence had caused a fundamental loss of trust and confidence in the firm to conduct the case, and that Somatra could not get alternative solicitors to take over the case so close to trial, the Court of Appeal commented “it would be surprising if SRT’s breaches had not caused some loss to Somatra”.
The Court of Appeal also upheld the Order for Indemnity Costs which the trial judge made against SRT.
Commenting on the outcome, the Chairman of ABT International, Mr Hisham Alireza, said that he considered the result a “tribute to British justice and to the great team of Herbert Smith and Counsel who have conducted the case to the utmost professional standards.”
John Ogilvie, the Herbert Smith partner responsible for the case, commented:
“This has been a long, hard fought case and it is good to see that the clients have achieved this positive and well deserved result”.
On the appeal Somatra was represented by Herbert Smith (John Ogilvie (partner) and Hardeep Nahal (partner), assisted by Maura McIntosh), with a Counsel team of Christopher Symons QC, Simon Rainey QC and Mark Cannon. SRT instructed Ince & Co (David Rutherford (partner), assisted by Rania Tadros and Alexander Horsbrough-Porter), with Justin Fenwick QC, Stephen Males QC, Rebecca Sabben-Clare and Daniel Shapiro.