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London HC enters £100,000 default judgment v Fox Mandal in professional negligence claim

Lawrence Karat v Fox Mandal & Co: Default judgment
Lawrence Karat v Fox Mandal & Co: Default judgment
The London high court has entered default judgment for over £100,000 (Rs 90 lakh) against Fox Mandal, which did not respond to the client’s claim that the law firm gave negligent advice in a patent application.

The Mercantile Court in the High Court of Justice in London awarded £104,885 in default plus costs against Fox and its London representative office.

The client, Lawrence Karat, who is the London-based director of The Movie Card People Company, which is based in Hong Kong.

Karat instructed Fox in a patent application after meeting managing partner Som Mandal in November 2008, who allegedly “represented that the defendant firm is one of the largest [law firms] in India and will be best law firm for claimant to instruct for his patent application in India for his latest invention”, according to the particulars of claim filed with the court.

However, Karat claimed that the case was not properly managed for four years in breach of the firm’s duty to “act with all proper skill, care diligence and competence as a patent attorney”, potentially resulting in the dismissal of his patent.

Mandal commented in a phone message: “We have no news about the matter except that our client sent us a mail recently. We are instructing solicitors in UK to apply for setting aside the default judgment.”

In the particulars of claim submitted to the court by the London office of Karat’s lawyers Singhania & Co, Karat alleged that the patent application was dealt with in an “unprofessional manner”. He also part-blamed the churn of lawyers and partners leaving FoxMandal Little, as it was then called, as reported by Legally India at the time. His case was therefore “handled by many lawyers in the firm over the period of time”.

Karat claimed that Fox could not retrieve his case files and a power of attorney was misplaced. A new power of attorney was executed by Karat but was allegedly notarised by Fox in India without Karat physically present, which in his view was illegal.

Furthermore, a “proof of right” deadline was missed in the Mumbai patent office, which could lead to a dismissal of the patent, according to Karat.

Karat agreed to limit his claim against Fox to £100,000 plus interest, which the high court awarded in default on 23 May 2013 because Fox did not appear before the court.

Karat said that he was considering a bar council complaint in India and further enforcement action for the default amounts.

Historically there have not been any reported cases of an Indian law firm getting sued by a client, whether in India or abroad. Nevertheless, interest in professional indemnity insurance has been increasing among law firms to a limited degree, Legally India reported last year.

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