In 2004 Paul Wright had surgery at The Basildon & Thurrock Hospital NHS Trust. The operation was carried out negligently and left him with a massive scar across his entire abdomen and pieces of the “bogota” bag used in the surgery were left in his wound. Subsequent surgery removed the pieces of the bag but Mr Wright was left with a destroyed abdominal wall leading in turn to difficulties in movement, walking and working.

In 2008 Mr Wright saw an advertisement for Troy Lucas & Co advertising “affordable legal advice when you need it!”

Mr Wright went on to instruct George Rusz sole principal of Troy Lucas & Co to act for him in a clinical negligence claim against the NHS Trust. What Mr Wright did not know was that George Rusz had no legal qualifications, no right to represent Mr Wright in Court, no professional indemnity insurance and was completely unregulated.

Mr Wright had a good claim against the NHS Trust which was later valued at a figure in excess of £320,000.00. The result however of Mr Wright’s legal action against the NHS Trust,conducted by George Rusz, was a settlement of just £20,000.00 but, because of the way George Rusz had conducted the litigation, Mr Wright had to pay the NHS Trust’s costs of approximately £74,000.00 leaving him £54,000.00 out of pocket.

Mr Wright subsequently instructed a firm of solicitors to bring an action against Troy Lucas & Co. This action was determined in the High Court in March 2019 when the Judge held that the firm had conducted the litigation negligently. The Judge ordered that Troy Lucas & Co should pay Mr Wright a sum in excess of £250,000.00.

I have not been able to establish whether the Judgment has been paid but given the fact that Troy Lucas & Co did not have any professional indemnity insurance it would only be paid if George Rusz had cash or assets sufficient to make that payment.

George Rusz is what is known in legal circles as a “McKenzie Friend”. McKenzie Friends are named after a case in 1971 when a Judge gave permission to a friend of a litigant to help him by preparing papers, taking notes and attending at Court. In 1971 it was not envisaged that McKenzie Friends would be paid for their services but with the collapse of Legal Aid paid McKenzie Friends have become widely prevalent in all areas of litigation including personal injury, clinical negligence, civil claims, employment and in matrimonial proceedings.

There are many dangers in instructing someone to act for you who is uninsured, unregulated and who has no legal qualifications. There are a number of ways in which Claimants who have a strong case with good prospects of recovery may instruct solicitors and then barristers to act for them including Conditional Fee Agreements and Damage Based Agreements which are commonly known as “No Win, No Fee Agreements.”

The moral of the story is please check to ensure that whoever is advising you is qualified, insured and regulated.

Caption: Richard Thornton, Senior Partner. Head of Dispute Resolution

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