28 August 2014Print This Post

Supreme Court refuses to hear litigant-in-person negligence appeal

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Supreme Court: “Complaints made about the fairness of the trial” had been answered

The Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from a litigant in person who sued her solicitors for negligence and whose claim included the grounds that she suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome.

Among other things, Susan Mulcahy claimed that a trial judge had discriminated against her by failing to take her condition seriously enough, with the result that she had been denied a fair trial.

Giving notice of its decision to refuse permission to appeal, the Supreme Court said the case “did not raise an arguable point of law which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time bearing in mind that the case has already been the subject of judicial decision and reviewed on appeal”.

The court also said her “complaints made about the fairness of the trial” had been answered by the Court of Appeal in its ruling at the end of last year.

Giving the leading judgment in Mulcahy v Castles Solicitors and another [2013] EWCA Civ 1686, Lord Justice Briggs said she accepted that her “unsuspected and undiagnosed condition” did not impose a higher duty of care on her solicitors, although it might have consequences in terms of the extent of the liability.

The court heard that Ms Mulcahy sued Hextalls with Castles & Co after she compromised a claim for ancillary relief with her former husband. Responding to Ms Mulcahy’s allegation that her trial judge, Judge Wood QC at Liverpool County Court, discriminated against her, Briggs LJ said both sides agreed that Judge Wood had the Equal Treatment Bench Book 2013 available during the trial.

Briggs LJ said the judge referred to Ms Mulcahy’s condition in his judgment, the fact it could be masked by her “obvious intelligence and articulation”, and the need to bear it in mind when “appraising her evidence and her recall of past events”.

Dismissing her appeal, the Lord Justice said the reasons he had given represented an “impossible mountain” for Ms Mulcahy to climb. Lady Justices Gloster and Arden agreed.

The Supreme Court said Ms Mulcahy’s undiagnosed Asperger’s “would have made no difference” to the solicitors’ liability, nor would it have affected the outcome of the trial.

By Nick Hilborne

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