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Duty of care even if you are not expecting payment

The Court has found that an architect and project manager who performed services for free owed duties of care in respect of the selection of the project team, the preparation of designs needed for pricing and construction, the exercise of costs control and periodic inspection of the works. The case of Burgess and Lejonvarn [2016] EWCH 40 is a reminder of the standard of conduct expected and required of professionals. In this case Mr and Mrs Burgess wished to have some substantial landscape works done to a high level design. The price of £150,000 had been quoted and Mrs Lejonvarn, an architect and project manager by trade and a friend of the couple considered this to be quite high.  She offered to organise a team to carry out the work at a lower price and for the early stages of the project at least, she would not charge for her services as project manager. Unfortunately the project was a disaster and costs significantly overran.  The relations between the friends soured and a claim is being made against Mrs Lejonvarn for £265,000 for the additional costs of carrying out the works without any professional indemnity insurance cover.

No contract existed between the parties but the judge concluded that a duty of care was owed in tort. The Burgess’ relied upon Mrs Lejonvarn’s professional expertise and she had accepted responsibility for a significant project. The relevant standard was that of a reasonably competent project manager and architect.

So the moral of the story is to be aware of the dangers of mixing work and friendship.  Also, as a professional do not give advice without professional indemnity insurance and finally, the case demonstrates the importance of having proper contacts and appointments drawn up which set out each parties roles and obligations to each other.

David Brown can be reached at