Standard of care in professional negligence claims

The following Dispute Resolution practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Standard of care in professional negligence claims
  • Reasonable skill and care—the ‘Bolam test’
  • Montgomery and the test of 'material risk'
  • Has Montgomery replaced Bolam for professional negligence claims outside the medical industry?
  • What does ‘reasonable skill and care’ in professional negligence claims mean in practice?
  • Duty to warn
  • Industry opinion in assessing whether a professional has exercised reasonable care
  • The role of the expert
  • Industry opinion generally
  • Specific industry opinions
  • More...

Standard of care in professional negligence claims

This Practice Note considers the standard of care in professional negligence claims, originally formulated in Bolam v Friern Hospital as being that of reasonable skill and care but now reconsidered following Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health. It considers how the test is applied in practice, the relevance of industry opinion and whether there can be an ‘acceptable range’ in assessing liability of the professional with reference to expert evidence.

The Practice Note also considers the standards of care expected of solicitors and barristers (see below), including consideration as to:

  1. the scope of the retainer

  2. the duty to warn (if any)

  3. what happens when a client closes down discussion of a potential claim

  4. solicitors and the Bowerman principle

  5. solicitors and fraudulent property transactions

The Practice Note also considers the court’s approach in negligent financial mis-selling cases (see below).

The 1957 decision in Bolam v Friern Hospital has long stood as the accepted standard of care in professional negligence cases, as being that of ‘reasonable skill and care’. However, in 2015, the Supreme Court in Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health held that, at least in the medical context, the explaining of risks to a person to whom advice is given is no longer governed by the test in Bolam. Rather, the duty is normally:

‘To take reasonable care to ensure that the patient is aware of

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