Are you owed money? Some tips that may help

In these difficult times cash is king! However many individuals, sole traders, firms and companies are using these difficult times as an excuse not to pay outstanding debts; including invoices, loans and contractual payments.

So what can you do when faced with, or to avoid, this situation?

  1. Act quickly. The older an invoice becomes the harder it invariably is to recover. The initial satisfaction and appreciation the customer had of the effort and work undertaken will have worn off within a matter of weeks …if not days. The reality of making payment is a different matter entirely. Chase a debt promptly with an initial polite letter and a strict time period for payment. A solicitor’s letter demanding payment within 7 days often forces a debtor to respond but much will depend on how old the debt is and how willing the debtor is to engage.
  2. Ensure you have as much information about the debtor as possible. It is imperative that you know your customer. You may know the individual you deal with but in what capacity? Are they acting as an individual, a sole trader, a partner in a firm or a director of a company. Are they authorised to act on behalf of the organisation (entity) they represent? The type of entity that you contracted with, whether individual, firm, company or otherwise will determine the best way of pursuing and recovering payment.
  3. Make sure that for individuals you have their full name, including all forenames that are often needed when undertaking bankruptcy searches or ascertaining what property they own.
  4. Take up financial or personal references where appropriate. Consider requesting references from suppliers to see if they have encountered any problems with payment.
  5. You may wish to limit exposure by setting internal credit limits. Many individuals and organisations fall into the trap of giving customers extended credit, particularly if they are relatively new customers who have promptly paid some earlier invoices ( often for far smaller sums) and the first substantial invoice is then not paid.
  6. Do you have terms of business? These can be extremely useful particularly if containing retention of title clauses in respect of goods supplied and not subsequently paid for.
  7. Keep records of all invoices. A solicitor will promptly require these when demanding payment from the debtor and commencing appropriate enforcement methods.
  8. A solicitor can advise on the various enforcement methods that can be taken prior to issue of court proceedings in an attempt to recover payment, or to reach a negotiated payment settlement by instalments with or without security. Statutory Demands are an effective way of placing sufficient pressure on an individual or company who would rather pay a debt than face bankruptcy or winding up. These however need to be dealt with carefully, and served properly, in order to comply with strict regulations and to be valid.
  9. Where necessary court proceedings should be issued, judgment obtained and then enforced. This is particularly so if there is a risk of an individual being made bankrupt by other creditors or a company being placed into liquidation. A judgment is only a piece of paper, and worthless until enforced, but a solicitor can advise on the appropriate enforcement methods that are likely to be most effective in the circumstances of any given case.

We recognise the difficulties faced by many in these extraordinary times in recovering outstanding debts. We are here to help and  always willing to have an initial no charge discussion as to how we may be able to assist, particularly where your debtors are taking an unfair advantage of the current circumstances.

Tainted blood scandal continues to cause controversy

A man whose father was among the victims of the contaminated blood scandal has announced he intends to take a landmark legal battle to the courts.

Controversy still surrounds hospital’s handling of blood donations during the 1970s and 80s, which left thousands of Britons with infections including hepatitis and HIV.

The episode was subsequently dubbed the greatest treatment scandal in the history of the NHS, with questions raised as to why hospitals in England and Wales continued to import blood products from the United States – even after safety fears were raised.

Speaking to the press last month, Jason Evans revealed that his father, Jonathan, was being treated for haemophilia when he received blood tainted by HIV. He passed away when his son was just four-years-old.

Now aged 27, Mr Evans has said he plans to sue the Government for negligence and breach of statutory duty. If his case is successful it could set a precedent for other families caught up in the scandal.

The furore intensified last month after a BBC Panorama programme raised questions about the fact that many crucial documents, including medical records, weren’t available. This has prompted accusations of a cover-up.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Evans said: “There are many of us who think that one of the reasons why you can’t get hold of a lot of these documents… was they cleaned them up because there was a sort of panic going around the world in the middle 80s, that these issues would reach court.”

The Department of Health has maintained that no documents had been destroyed maliciously and there was no evidence of missing or amended medical records.

It is important to seek expert legal advice if you believe you have the grounds to pursue a clinical negligence claim.  For guidance please contact our head of Dispute Resolution Stephen Silverman or visit our website.

Lease dispute to be heard in court

A historic art gallery and a West End hotel are locked in a legal dispute which is set to be heard at London’s Royal Courts of Justice.

Franses Gallery, which was founded in 1909, has been operating from premises at The Cavendish hotel for the past quarter of a century.

However, the hotel, owned by Singapore-based CapitaLand, has refused to extend the gallery’s lease for a further 15 years, putting the two parties on a collision course.

The future of Franses at the site had first been thrown into doubt by plans to redevelop the ground floor of The Cavendish and create two new shop units.

While this proposal was eventually withdrawn, the gallery is still facing eviction from the premises, with its director Simon Franses describing the dispute as a “David versus Goliath” style struggle.

“Capita seem unaware that this is the heart of the St James’s Art District, the world’s greatest concentration of art expertise,” he said. “It always seemed irrational to try to replace us with fashion outlets, which are against the council’s stated policy.

“Any replacement would now be limited to art, antique or bespoke, and would pay an equivalent rent to us.”

Alfred Ong, a senior director at CapitaLand subsidiary The Ascott, said: “Franses’s leases have come to an end and an application for their renewal is the subject of court proceedings. We would be happy to comment once that litigation has been concluded.”

It is important to seek expert legal advice if you are involved in a property dispute, for guidance please contact our head of Dispute Resolution Stephen Silverman or visit.

Britons urged to consider legal and safety responsibilities ahead of Bonfire Night

According to a recent study, the majority of Britons have little to no understanding of the law around fireworks – or the consequences they could face if they breach them.

Local authorities and paramedics across the country have issued a warning in recent days, urging anyone considering hosting a private fireworks display to be aware of their legal and safety responsibilities.

Under English law, the maximum punishment for a serious breach of firework regulations is six months imprisonment, and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

On-the-spot fines can be charged at up to £90 – but what many Britons fail to realise is how easily and accidentally they could find themselves breaking the law.

Serious punishments are typically handed out to those who set rockets or Catherine Wheels alight without taking sensible precautions, but Britons could be unknowingly breaking the law by exceeding a midnight curfew, storing excessive quantities of fireworks without a licence, or purchasing and using prohibited category-four fireworks – which can only be used by professionals.

Britons are also urged to consider the health and safety implications of hosting a private fireworks display.

Last year, research from Policy Expert revealed that insurance claims over Bonfire weekend were more than twice the monthly average, whereas a separate study suggests that Britons are more likely to sustain a fire-related injury in November than any other month.

Adam Powell of Policy Expert, said: “To ensure that you don’t ‘remember, remember the fifth of November’ for all the wrong reasons, it’s important to ensure you take care when using fireworks and lighting bonfires to prevent any nasty accidents”.

Dangerous overcrowding and “mass panic” incite health and safety investigation on Southern Rail network

Dangerous overcrowding and “mass panic in crowds” on the Southern Rail network have sparked a health and safety inquiry, the Association of British Commuters (ABC) has announced.

The regulator said it had been “inundated” with complaints, which had peaked during the summer’s strike action.

It has asked the Department for Transport (DfT) if these risks “warranted termination of the franchise”.

Meanwhile, Southern Rail said its priority was the safety of passengers.

A spokesperson said the train line had deployed additional staff and queuing systems at the busiest stations on strike days “to manage passenger numbers”.

“When stations do get busy, such as in times of disruption, our staff’s priority is to ensure our passengers can get on and off trains safely – which sometimes necessitates holding passengers back from the platform.”

But ABC said it had spoken to the DfT asking whether it had conducted any risk analysis in the face of further strikes.

It cited incidents including “violence at Brighton station, dangerous overcrowding and mass panic in crowds, mass rushes along overcrowded platforms to board trains, and a child left abandoned on a platform”.

It added that there had been reports of “at least two” incidents of trains going through planned station stops without stopping.

The DfT said improving rail services for passengers was a priority.

Firms ordered to pay £214k after HSE investigation

A UK borehole drilling company and site owner have been ordered to collectively pay more than £214,000 over health and safety failings which led to an employee sustaining “life-changing injuries”.

Norwich-based TW Page and Son and North Walsham-based LF Papworth were sentenced on Monday 24 October at Norwich Crown Court, following an extensive investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which “revealed that there was not a safe system of work at the site.”

A Court heard that a Mr Jon Howes suffered a “life-changing” electric shock at LF Papworth’s site in April 2014.

The incident occurred after the drilling rig Mr Howes was working on collided with an underground power line carrying 11,000 volts of electricity.

A Court was told that Mr Howes narrowly escaped death after the shock ‘threw him to the ground’ and onlookers quickly ‘dragged him to safety’.

HSE representatives argued that both firms had failed to put in place adequate measures to prevent such accidents occurring. They added that the duo had fallen far short of meeting ‘recognised standards in the industry’.

Pleading guilty to all charges, site owners LF Papworth were ordered to pay fines of £134,000 and costs of almost £6,500.

Construction company TW Page and Son were handed a fine of £80,400 and also ordered to pay costs of around £6,500.

Both companies told a Court that they had taken remedial action since the incident.

Matthew Gowen, of LF Papworth, said: “The company obviously accepts that there were things that could have been done by them that weren’t.”

Hefty health and safety fines for UK delivery company

A UK parcel delivery company has been ordered to pay more than £130,000 in fines and costs, after it was found guilty of serious health and safety breaches.

Buckinghamshire-based Delivered UK found itself facing legal action after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that the company had taken insufficient measures to prevent its forklift trucks from colliding with pedestrians upon entry and exit from its stock buildings.

The investigation, which came after a Delivered UK employee was knocked down by a reversing forklift and subsequently hospitalised in 2014, found that the company had failed to conduct proper risk assessments with relation to loading and unloading its forklifts.

At Reading Crown Court on 23 September 2016, HSE said that Delivered UK’s yard was not organised in such a way that would allow pedestrians or workers on foot to access vehicles parked in other areas of the site safely.

It added that the company had failed to assess or introduce sufficient barriers to segregate on-foot workers from forklift drivers and vehicles.

A Court heard also that one employee had suffered serious fractures and crush injuries to his left leg after he was knocked down by a forklift in 2014 and became entangled with the vehicle’s rear wheel.

Delivered UK pleaded guilty to all charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £120,000. The company was also ordered to pay £10,783 in costs – and was issued with an improvement notice by HSE.

Delivered UK has not commented on the case.