HomeInsightsHigh Court grants injunction preventing solicitor from acting against former client due to risk of subconsciously disclosing confidential information

Article by

In about February 2015 the second claimant, Kalpesh Patel, retained the first defendant, Sadhana Soni, as his solicitor.  Ms Soni was also retained as in-house counsel for the first claimant, Western Avenue Properties Ltd, from March 2015 to February 2016.

In March 2017, after she had ceased to work for either of the claimants, Ms Soni was approached by the Thukral family with a request to act for them professionally in a potential piece of litigation against her former client, Mr Patel, in relation to the premises at Western Avenue.

Ms Soni sought and received advice from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority as to whether she could act for the Thukral family.  The SRA advised Ms Soni of her duty of confidentiality to Mr Patel and of her potentially conflicting duty to disclose to the Thukral family any information that was material to their matter.

Ms Soni told the Thukral family that she could act for them professionally, provided they signed a “waiver”, which purported to release Ms Soni from her disclosure obligations to the Thukral family.

The claimants applied for an injunction restraining Ms Soni from acting for the Thukral family in proceedings concerning them.

The court found that the claimants had established that Ms Soni had been in possession of information that was confidential to them and to the disclosure of which they had not consented.  Further, it was “obvious” that the information was or might be relevant to the dispute between the claimants and the Thukrals.

Ms Soni had attempted to deal with the problem through execution of the “waiver” document (whose validity was contested), but nevertheless there remained the continuing risk of subconsciously using the confidential information to the advantage of the Thukral family, a risk the SRA had drawn her attention to, the court said.

The court held that Ms Soni should not, without the consent of her former clients, have accepted instructions from the Thukrals unless, viewed objectively, her doing so would not increase the risk that her former clients’ confidential information would come into the possession of the Thukrals.

Ms Soni had not entertained any conscious intention of breaching her professional obligations, the court said.  However, that did not avoid or reduce the risk of subconscious use of confidential information.

The claimants had established the right to obtain the injunction they sought.  (Western Avenue Properties Ltd v Sadhana Soni [2017] EWHC 2650 (QB) (26 October 2017) — to read the judgment in full, click here).