An application to transfer a claim for breach of duty against a party wall surveyor was refused by the High Court.
Mr Chliaifchtein had commenced proceedings in the County Court against Mr Jessop, alleging breach of duty and claiming damages amounting to about £17,000. A Defence was filed asserting that Mr Jessop, as a party wall surveyor acting under section 10 of the Act, was immune from suit. Mr Chliaifchtein then applied to transfer the case to the High Court (Technology and Construction Court) on the basis that the issue of immunity was one of general public importance.
Coulson J held that whilst the issue of immunity was an interesting one, it was not one of general public importance – a point illustrated by the fact that no such case had arisen since the Act came into force. He also noted that the specialist judges in Central London County Court were more than qualified to deal with the issue, and that the very modest value of the claim in any event was a strong factor in refusing the application.
It is a shame, from an academic and practitioner’s perspective, that this remains the closest anyone has yet been to obtaining a binding decision on the issue of whether party wall surveyors are immune from suit. The only reasoned decision on this point known to the author was made in the decision of the RICS disciplinary panel in the case of Philip Antino, at paragraphs 49-55, which concluded that no such immunity applied.
A full copy of the (very brief) judgment can be found here