Here is another sorry tale about disappointed litigant who fought and lost, which serves as a salutory lesson. It is not known whether the parties mediated but as an arbitrator it must be galling for Mr Griffiths QC to lose a case such as this.
Mr Griffiths, a planning and property lawyer , had exchanged contracts on Laughton manor at a price of £3.6m on April Fools Day 2011.
However, he did not obtain any professional advice on the property’s condition until after the contracts had been signed and discovered its condition.
They said they wanted a home in “pristine” condition and refused to pay a further 10 per cent deposit.
As a result the vendors refused to return their money. Mr Griffiths argued in court that he had been the victim of “reckless misrepresentation” about the property’s condition and had made ‘excessive and unreasonable demands’.
However, the Judge accepted the vendor’s “careful” evidence that he had never had the house surveyed and was unaware of any damp problem.
The judge said they had an ‘unconditional right’ to cancel the contract when Mr and Mrs Griffiths failed to pay the balance of the deposit or complete on time.
They were entitled to keep the deposit, to re-sell the mansion to someone else and to sue Mr Griffiths for damages, she ruled.
Argumemts such as this often arise in property transactions and it is always recommended to obtain a survey before proceeding as otherwise the purchaser is having to rely upon possible representations which are difficult to prove. Such cases are suitable for mediation.
As a result of proceeding, Mr Griffiths is out of pocket to the tune of £150,000 deposit, £235,000 damages and legal costs on top. Mr Griffiths will probably not be laughing now.
Mr Griffiths is the president designate of the newly-formed London Chamber of Arbitration and leading proponent of alternative dispute models. He recently criticised Lord Thomas, the lord chief justice, for saying that the development of the law was more important than private arbitration.
Griffiths told a recent meeting of the British American Group of Lawyers in London that if senior judges “regard the development of the law as more important than the resolution of the dispute between the parties, then it is not surprising that parties over the last three decades have increasingly turned to arbitration as a preferred method of resolving disputes in commercial matters”
“Commercial judges are rightly more concerned in deciding disputes on the facts rather than in the development of the substantive law,” he said. “Hard cases make bad law.”
He added: “Lord Thomas does not point to any specific matters relating to the common law which need further development. If there are these lacunae in the commercial law, then parliament is there to ensure these are filled.”
In fact, we would argue that mediation is a truer alternative to litigation and that it can work hand in hand with litigation to bring about resolution.