The High Court has found Zurich Assurance Ltd, and others, liable for bad inheritance tax (IHT) advice given to Mrs Lenderink-Woods. She had married a Dutch naval captain in WWII and not lived in the UK since 1948.
In bringing her claim she very impressively she gave video-link evidence aged 96. In finding against Zurich the Judge noted Zurich’s own media relations manager saying, when the Claimant was then aged 92, that :-
“The media would find it inexcusable that we have not been able to clarify the tax position much earlier – if we had we would have been able to avoid all of this and not had to make an offer which we later withdrew. The fact that she is so elderly certainly does not go in our favour!”
But still Zurich fought the case vigorously and were subject to criticism from the Court in taking a bad and losing point that a third party helping Mrs Lenderinck-Woods somehow debarred her claim. Zurich even talked of seeking costs from the third party, about which the Court noted:-
“Such behaviour has a chilling effect on those who advise clients who are pursuing claims against large providers of financial services.”
The Court found as a fact that the Claimant had made out her case of negligent tax advice. In assessing damages, at £223,000, the Court made an incisive point on its function in deciding quantum :-
“My task is to assess (not to compute) damages for the loss caused to Mrs Lenderink-Woods. I do not aim for spurious precision. All the work of the experts (for which I am grateful) enables me to reach broad conclusions even if I cannot myself undertake calculations.”
The case is reported as Lenderink-Woods v Zurich Assurance  EWHC 3287 (Ch), Dec/16.
Tax Barrister, Accountant