An attempt to make a valuation surveyor personally liable for losses resulting from a property survey has failed.

The decision in Mavis Russell v Walker & Co, Robert Chisnall and others further reduces the impact of the decision in Merrett v Babb of 2001. The earlier case had found a surveyor personally liable for damages when acting on behalf of his employer which had become insolvent.

The decision follows a ruling in February 2014 when the courts also rejected a liability claim against a surveyor, Fraser Maldoom – see Brunel News, May 2014.

Mrs Russell started negligence proceedings in respect of a Homebuyer’s Report prepared by Mr Chisnall while he was an employee of Walker & Co. The firm has gone into administration and Mrs Russell claimed that Mr Chisnall owed her a duty of care in his personal capacity, in line with Merrett v Babb.

Mr Chisnell’s solicitors, Browne Jacobson, acting on instructions from RICS Member Support Service, applied for summary judgment, on the grounds that Mrs Russell’s allegation stood little prospect of succeeding at trial. District Judge Molineaux agreed, dismissing the claim and ruling in Mr Chisnall’s favour.

Nik Carle, Partner, Browne Jacobson said: “This is another measured and sensible decision in support of employed professional advisers. Encouragingly, the courts seem prepared to keep the wings of Merrett v Babb firmly clipped for now.”

The decision is good news for surveyors and insurers says James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professional Risks. “This is the second time in recent months that an attempt to make a surveyor personally liable for a valuation has failed. The good work undertaken by RICS to provide support to members facing personal liability claims has again proved its worth. However, firms should note that the threat of Merrett v Babb proceedings against an employee has not been entirely removed, and it is well worth inserting (or retaining if one already exists) a disclaimer into the firm’s terms of engagement in order to further protect employees.

Further details of the case have been published by RICS and law firms Browne Jacobson and Wright Hassall.