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The curious case of the £8 million letter 'S'

The curious case of the £8 million letter “S”


If ever there was a cautionary tale that might urge lawyers and administrators alike to pay the closest attention to detail, is that of the downfall of Taylor & Sons Ltd.


This Welsh engineering firm had been thriving for 124 years, employing more than 250 people. In 2009 however, over in Companies House an administrator recorded the sad news that Taylor & Sons Ltd had been wound up. Accordingly, the family firm’s business began to evaporate, as customer after customer heard the sad news. Orders were cancelled, and suppliers fretting for their own business began to refuse credit.


The whole sorry business all hinged on the tiniest of errors: the use of the letter ‘s’. What Companies House had intended to record was that Taylor & Son – a company which had nothing to do with the Taylor & Sons Ltd besides having a similar name - had gone into liquidation.


The managing director of Taylor & Sons Ltd happened to be on holiday when the false news of the company’s failure broke, and he was of course inundated with calls from aghast clients and creditors accusing him of fleeing the country. No amount of explanation of the Companies House mistake could prevent the rumour of this company’s demise from spreading like a virus across the internet, and in due course the company entered administration, and was dissolved in 2014.


Naturally enough, the company duly sued, and a judge has found that Companies House should be held legally responsible for the firm’s collapse. Damages are likely to hit the £8 million mark – a hefty cost for a single letter.


Lawyers generally need no reminding of the crucial importance of attention to detail when it comes to their practice. Fortunately, most slips of the pen (or keyboard) avoid such catastrophic consequences – but no lawyer is above making mistakes when pressed for time, beset by deadlines – or not yet bolstered by the third espresso of the day. Close partnership working with litigation support partners such as Legastat can help avoid the possibility of errors in case preparation, by making use of the wealth of legal IT innovations available. Where once it was necessary to rely on staff accurately and swiftly assimilating hundreds of pages of information, tools such as eDiscovery can make light (and accurate!) work of the task. And where it was once only too easy for small errors to slip into disclosure of documents or the creation of bundles, digitised methods can significantly reduce the possibility.


It’s mercifully unlikely that any chambers or firm will be stiffed with an £8 million bill for a single letter – but by working with Legastat, we can help keep your practice free of error and inaccuracy – and avoid the consequences.