Defending High Court claim on behalf of vulnerable client

Case studies

Defending High Court claim on behalf of vulnerable client

Our contentious private client team successfully defended a High Court claim brought by the former carer of Mr Nicholas Rayner. The judge was heavily critical of the claimant and ordered the repayment of money and return of documents improperly removed by her.

Mr Rayner is a former Army officer and was a renowned auctioneer at Sotheby's in Geneva. He achieved international fame in 1987 when he auctioned the jewels of the late Duchess of Windsor. In 1994 he suffered a serious stroke which changed his life forever. Since then, Mr Rayner has needed a great deal of assistance with everyday living and has engaged carers to help him.

One carer was the claimant Kumari Murphy. She was engaged by Mr Rayner in 1995 until she was dismissed in 2009. The claimant brought this litigation and alleged that she was entitled to Mr Rayner's home and investments because Mr Rayner had promised these to her in return for caring for him. The claimant alleged that she had never been paid by Mr Rayner.

In dismissing her claim, the court found that Mr Rayner had made these promises as a result of the claimant's abuse of her position and her use of improper pressure. He judged that the claimant placed no reliance on these promises, and suffered no detriment, because she felt free to leave Mr Rayner at any time and she had in fact been paid by Mr Rayner. The claimant had lied when she claimed that she had never been paid by Mr Rayner and had breached her fiduciary duty to him.

The claimant lied to Mr Rayner about having a daughter. On the basis of this lie, Mr Rayner made payments over a number of years for her daughter's education and housing. The court ordered that these payments were repaid. The claimant was also ordered to return papers belonging to Mr Rayner that she removed from his home.

The claimant had to account to Mr Rayner for all the money that she received from him. It was estimated by the defendants that the claimant received about £1.3 million over the years that she worked for Mr Rayner.

The court found that the claimant's conduct amounted not only to procuring payments dishonestly and on entirely false pretences; it also involved a cynical abuse of the trust reposed in her by a vulnerable man, who looked to her for his care and well being. The court also found that the claimant knew that Mr Rayner felt unable to stand up to her and that she applied excessive pressure, emotional blackmail and bullying.

Please click here to read the full judgment.

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