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Professional Negligence: “Football is a matter of life and death, except more important” – Bill Shankly

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

Following the tragic demise of footballer Emiliano Sala, Cardiff City Football Club finally reached a settlement with Miller Insurance Services LLP.

Sala was acquired by Cardiff City FC during the 2019 January transfer window. The player, who was 28 years old at the time, was en route from FC Nantes, France, to Wales to join Cardiff City FC. Unfortunately, the plane met with an accident in the Channel near Guernsey killing all passengers.

As a result, a contentious legal battle ensued between Cardiff City FC and FC Nantes whereby Cardiff City FC refused to pay the transfer fee, asserting that Sala was not their player.

Subsequently, FC Nantes lodged a complaint against Cardiff City FC with FIFA, who ruled in FC Nantes’ favour, imposing a ban on Cardiff City FC from purchasing any players for three transfer windows.

In August 2022, a hearing was conducted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). CAS determined that Cardiff FC was responsible for the payment, as the transfer had been finalised at the time of Sala’s death.

Arguably, Cardiff FC believed the deal had been completed because they attempted to recover insurance money shortly after Sala’s death. However, they soon discovered that Sala was not insured due to the professional negligence of Miller Insurance Services LLP and therefore, Cardiff City FC brought a claim against them for professional negligence.

What is professional negligence?

Professional negligence occurs when a professional fails to perform their responsibilities to the required standard. For Cardiff City’s professional negligence claim to succeed they had to establish:
1. That Miller Insurance acted in breach of duty owed to the club, and;
2. The breach caused loss to the club.

In this case, Cardiff City FC argued that Miller Insurance breached their duty owed to them by not communicating a clause in the agreement whereby the club had to “promptly” notify the broker of a new transfer to secure coverage. The broker failed to advise the football club about the risks of delaying their notification of interest in Sala or the steps required to reduce or eliminate the risk of him not being covered by insurance.

They went on to argue that had they known this, they would have requested £20 million insurance cover for Sala on 19 January 2019, two days before his death. The football club claimed that the insurance broker failed to act with reasonable skill and care and breached its obligations as a broker which resulted in them losing millions in insurance money. Following their claim of £10 million pounds, both parties agreed to a settlement that resolved the High Court Claim.

An interesting story on how a simple thing like failing to communicate one clause in an insurance agreement can result in professional negligence costing millions to a business. Although this is an extreme scenario, professional negligence can occur in many forms whether that be a breach of confidentiality, incorrect tax, insurance, legal or investment advice or a surveyor failing to identify structural problems with property. We here at Wilson Browne have a dedicated specialist team of litigation lawyers who can help you resolve your professional negligence problems. #allthehelpyouneed.