From time to time we can be asked by friends, family or charitable organisations to provide services by way of a favour. It is common to receive such requests within the legal profession but equally as common within others, including the construction industry.
Typically when one calls on a favour, it means that you are being asked to provide your professional advice or services at ‘mates rates’ or at no cost. There is a common perception across all industries that if you are providing advice or services on friendly terms then the expected level of professional duty is reduced significantly to your client or in some instances do not apply at all.
The recent case of Burgess v Lejonvarn  EWHC 40 (TCC) confirms the above position.
Mr Burgess wanted to have the gardens to his £5m estate landscaped. Having received quotes of £150,000 from landscapers, Mr Burgess turned to long-term friend, Mrs Lejonvarn. Lejonvarn, an architectural designer, was asked to project manage the entire landscaping project. Weeks into the project communications broke down which resulted in cost overruns, delays and defects caused by the building team. This resulted in Mr Burgess issuing County Court proceedings against his now former friend, Mrs Lejonvarn.
At the trial, the judge held that the despite Lejonvarn holding out as providing project management services, she did so as a friend who happened to have a professional background. Mr Burgess was deemed to be a client of Lejonvarn and therefore she owed a duty of care.
Due to the nature of the failings, the judge further held that Lejonvarn had breached her professional duty of care in failing to select the correct project team, failing to prepare designs needed for pricing and construction, failing to exercise cost control and failing to frequently inspect works.
In summary, if you are a professional involved in providing advice or services it is important to remember that you will always owe a duty of care to those receiving your advice or service irrespective of the relationship you enjoy with the individual or organisation.