Tram chiefs may sue firms over project advice

TRAM chiefs are to consider suing legal advisers and consultants for allegedly giving misleading advice on the construction of the network.

TRAM chiefs are to consider suing legal advisers and consultants for allegedly giving misleading advice on the construction of the network.

Lawyers are to outline the future action against firms, including those involved in the drawing up of the original contract.

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Senior figures in the now defunct body TIE could also be taken to court over the handling of the project under proposals to be considered in March.

The city’s independent audit committee has asked lawyers at Edinburgh City Council to draw up plans outlining which firms may be liable, the chances of success in a court battle, and the amounts of cash that could be recovered.

Senior city figures – including the former transport leader Gordon Mackenzie – have previously made calls for those involved to be pursued, but the local authority is now under renewed pressure to do so before the five-year limit on legal action expires.

Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said that evidence is now being compiled as part of the planned public inquiry.

She said: “We have looked at this and are considering whether there would be a case to pursue some of the companies who have given us advice.

“The First Minister has said there would be a public inquiry and therefore all the information is already being collated for that.”

Jeremy Balfour, chair of the city’s independent audit committee, estimated the cut-off date could be as early as the autumn. He said: “I am concerned if we don’t take action fairly soon this opportunity to recover funds will pass us by.

“It is important for the people of Edinburgh that we seek to recoup any costs that should not have been incurred.”

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Alastair Maclean, director of corporate governance at the council and a former partner in a city law firm, told councillors: “I’m aware there is likely to be a great deal of interest and there needs to be a report on this soon.”


John Paul Sheridan, convenor of the Obligations Committee at the Law Society of Scotland, and director of TLT Solicitor, soutlines the issues:

• Timescale: “It would generally be five years from the date the client suffered the loss or knew about the negligence.”

• Liability: “In order to succeed in any negligence claim the client would need to prove that no reasonably competent lawyer would have drafted the contract in such a way”

• Similar cases: “There are a lot of negligence claims against solicitors, but this is an unusual scenario given the sums of money involved.”

• Conflict: “If a company continues to work on the project there might be a potential conflict.”

• Issues: “For consultants it would be the same test in court, that no reasonably competent consultant would have given advice in such a way”

• Costs: “Even if a local authority pursued this in-house, they would probably hire QCs, so it could be quite costly.”