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This is a set of chambers providing barrister’s services in contract law and litigation. It provides assistance to solicitors and their clients. It also provides direct access services to businesses, organisations, local authorities and individuals who require legal advice and assistance with their legal issues, whether commercial problem solving, contract drafting or dispute resolution.

The practice includes barristers with expertise in contract law, company, commercial and civil disputes, intellectual property, competition & procurement, sale of goods, consumer rights, financial mis-selling, insurance, professional negligence, commercial property and construction.

We also offer continuing in-house legal services to companies who do not retain a legal department in order to advise on company-commercial issues, data protection, compliance and protection of their intellectual property including registration and dispute resolution.

Many of our clients use our training and consultancy services to get to know us and develop knowledge, CPD and bring lawyers and professionals together in an inter-active learning experience.

Chambers is authorised to conduct litigation directly without the necessity of instructing a solicitor. This means that you are able access expert legal advice without incurring significant additional costs that arise through the use of two lawyers working on the same case.

Legal Updates

16 Jan

Who has the burden of proof in bailment?

Volcafe Ltd and others (Appellants) v Compania Sud Americana De Vapores SA (Respondent) [2018] UKSC 61 On appeal from [2016] EWCA Civ 1103

Damage to coffee beans in transit. The Hague Rules must be read against the background of the common law rules on bailment . The Supreme Court reminded us of the two fundamental principles in the law of bailment: (i) a bailee of goods is only under a limited duty to take reasonable care of the goods, but (ii) the bailee nonetheless bears the legal burden of proving the absence of negligence.

 A contract of carriage governed by the Hague Rules is a contract of bailment unless excluded by the Rules and the Hague Rules do not exclude them.

The question of the burden of proof, which in accordance with ordinary principles of private international law are matters for the law of the forum .

The cargo owners brought a claim against the carriers for breach of their duties as bailees to deliver the cargoes in the condition recorded on the bill of lading and, alternatively, breach of article III, rule 2 of the Hague Rules for failure to “properly and carefully load, handle, stow, carry, keep, care for, and discharge the goods carried”. They alleged negligence by the carriers for failing to use adequate or sufficient Kraft paper.

The carriers pleaded “inherent vice” on the ground that the coffee beans were unable to withstand the ordinary levels of condensation forming on such a voyage.

The Supreme Court restored the judge’s factual findings (Donaldson LJ). Given the absence of evidence on the weight of the paper used, the Court decides that the carrier has failed to discharge its legal burden that it was not negligent.

12 Nov

Non Disclosure Agreements

Sir Philip Green has been named by Lord Peter Hain as the person who successfully sought an injunction to prevent a newspaper from printing allegations of sexual harassment and racism against him. The complainant had taken the decision to settle the potential claims with Sir Philip and had signed a non-disclosure agreement (“NDA”).

The old adage goes that “everything hidden is meant to be revealed, and everything concealed is meant to be brought to light”. In short, NDAs often don’t work because secrets will out. We cannot help talking about them, and the bigger the secret, the more the talk. For example, consider Donald Trump’s alleged NDA with Stormy Daniels, over his alleged affair.

Lawyers have tried to compel opposing parties to keep secrets for years, and are still trying to do so. NDAs of varying widths and lengths have been developed, sometimes with the best of intentions, just to resolve clients’ disputes and ensure that truly confidential and sensitive information is protected – but sometimes to avoid public opprobrium, and side step regulatory intervention, particularly when allegations of harassment or discrimination were made.

It should be borne in mind that the rules of procedure in the Employment Tribunal provide robust and tested controls to protect the anonymity of a claimant. With this in mind, the Women and Equalities Select Committee chair Maria Miller MP has called for a deep review of their use and legality, following the committee’s report on sexual harassment in the workplace.

But what is the best way of addressing the problem of abuse of NDAs while accepting that enforceable settlements are also in the public interest? And is any of this viable in an age of social media and the readiness of parliamentarians to use their privilege to name the alleged wrongdoer?

A similar problem emerged a few years ago with “super-injunctions”, where the courts ordered that the very existence of an injunction also had to be kept confidential.
The press hated these and sought to use social media and parliamentary privilege for others to say things that the press could not.

That problem was addressed not by legislation but by those involved — judges, lawyers and the media — forming a working group to put in place practical proposals to deal with the abuse of such injunctions. The gagging orders used to be notorious, but now it is rare to hear of them. A balanced overall approach may also be suitable here.

There certainly should be clear judicial guidance on the extent to which the press, who will not be parties to the NDAs, are ever bound to observe their terms. It is one thing to accept confidentiality willingly, it is quite another to, in effect, impose that same duty on a stranger to a contract.

Lawyers have a really important role to play. Barristers are required to act with honesty and integrity, to maintain public confidence in the profession, and to be open and co-operative with regulators. Similar obligations are imposed on solicitors by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

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