White v Jones [1995]

White v Jones [1995] UKHL 5 is a significant English tort law case that delves into the realm of professional negligence and the circumstances under which an individual may be deemed to have assumed responsibility for the well-being of another.

The case revolved around the daughters of Mr Barratt, who sued Mr Jones for professional negligence. Mr Barratt had initially instructed the solicitor, Mr Jones, to exclude his daughters from his will during a period of estrangement. However, before his death, family issues were resolved, and Mr Barratt instructed Mr Jones to amend the will to include a £9000 provision for his daughters. Despite the instructions, Mr Jones did not make the necessary changes to the will, and after Mr Barratt's death, the family refused to alter the settlement. The central question was whether the daughters could bring a claim against Mr. Jones.

In the House of Lords, Lord Goff, with a majority of three to two, ruled in favour of the daughters' right to claim. He argued that a special relationship existed between the daughters and the solicitor, and Mr Jones had assumed responsibility towards them. Despite the absence of a contract or fiduciary relationship, Lord Goff asserted that the Caparo test was satisfied because the loss was foreseeable. This decision was influenced by the notion that solicitors should not be allowed to escape the consequences of negligence in their professional duties.

White v Jones is significant for its contribution to the understanding of professional negligence and the assumption of responsibility. The case expanded the circumstances under which individuals, even in the absence of a formal contract or fiduciary relationship, could be held liable for negligence if they had assumed responsibility for the welfare of another party. This decision reinforced the principle that professionals, such as solicitors, owe a duty of care to those who reasonably rely on their services, even when no direct contractual or fiduciary relationship exists.
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