Thomas Worthen

Thomas Worthen

"He has infallible people skills and provides well-thought-out, tactical arguments."

Legal 500

"Very personable, with excellent written opinions and advocacy skills."

Legal 500

"I have to say that I am singularly impressed with the quality of your Opinion, it is unequivocal, comprehensive and extremely easy to follow and understand."

Instructing solicitor

"I was always genuinely in awe of your abilities technically and professionally, and I very much enjoyed working with"

Instructing solicitor

"I am so pleased that we won the case, Justice feels very good. We waited so long. I want to thank you for all your hard work on my behalf. You were totally brilliant in Court, the Judge deferring to you in most things and asking your opinion; when asked about something you went straight to the correct document. Our solicitor told me that you were the very best Barrister and that he had great faith in you and he was right, that faith was not misplaced."

Lay Client

“He has infallible people skills and provides well-thought-out, tactical arguments.”

Legal 500 2016

"His advocacy is delivered in a firm and decisive manner well beyond his call."

Legal 500 2015

"Knack of getting Judges onside."

Legal 500 2015

“Very personable, with excellent written opinions and advocacy skills.”

Legal 500 2016

"He has an excellent bedside manner with clients."

Legal 500 2017

"He puts clients at ease."

Legal 500 2015

Practice Overview

Tom studied law at Oxford University, where he won a number of prizes and scholarships, before spending five years as Lecturer in Law at Lincoln College, Oxford.

Tom then moved to the Bar in 2007, and has just celebrated his 10th anniversary as a member of Pallant Chambers. During this time, he has successfully built a substantial Civil Chancery practice, appearing in various notable trials across the South Coast, in the High Court in London and Birmingham, and in the Court of Appeal. He has been consistently ranked as a Leading Junior by the Legal 500 from 2013 onwards, and is currently one of only four barristers in the South East to be recommended for both Commercial/Chancery and Property work.

Tom particularly specialises in Probate disputes (including validity and interpretation of wills, statutory wills, and claims under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975), Property disputes (including constructive trusts, proprietary estoppel, rights of way, boundaries, adverse possession and restrictive covenant claims), Contractual disputes (ranging from large corporate commercial transactions to private individual contracts) and Professional Negligence claims (particularly negligence of lawyers, surveyors and accountants). His Probate and Property practices cause him to appear in the Court of Protection and Land Registry tribunals as well as the High Court and County Court.

To each of his cases, Tom prides himself on bringing detailed legal knowledge, sound tactical awareness, and practical common sense. For solicitors, he is always available by telephone, keen to help whenever needed and to work in partnership to achieve the best possible result. For lay clients, he aims to carry out the necessary (often intricate) legal research and then condense the information into a form easy for a non-lawyer to understand, setting out the options from which an informed decision can be made as to the right way forward.

ADR

Tom is frequently instructed in a variety of mediations, and is well aware of their potential for the quick resolution of the toughest of disputes. He is particularly concerned to ensure that mediations are conducted efficiently and effectively: he aims to give clients clear advice on their position in advance, so that no one is taken by surprise and time is not wasted on what is inevitably a stressful day for all involved, and so that attention can then be concentrated on the key points to put pressure on the other side and achieve the best possible chance of an attractive deal.

Using this approach, Tom has settled a large number of cases at mediation in all of his main practice areas – will and trust disputes, property and co-ownership claims, commercial disputes and professional negligence claims. These have included claims where the parties previously seemed large distances apart, either by reason of the distance between the parties’ expectations prior to mediation, or by reason of the strength of the allegations made, notably including bitter family and neighbour disputes, claims of fraud and claims involving alleged undue influence and manipulation of deceased relatives.

Where settlement does occur, Tom uses his considerable experience of acting for Claimants in professional negligence claims relating to the incorrect drafting of agreements and Tomlin Orders to ensure that any agreement is as watertight as possible for the future.

Equally, where settlement does not occur, Tom is astute to take steps following mediation to ensure that clients are as well-placed tactically as possible prior to trial, including by the use of well-judged Pt 36 offers.

Looking beyond mediation, Tom also has experience of other forms of ADR, including adjudications and arbitrations. He is currently instructed in an arbitration relating to a substantial compensation claim by a collection of businesses against a local authority said to have been responsible for the collapse of the businesses concerned, and has appeared in lengthy adjudication proceedings relating to a construction dispute and associated reported litigation relating to enforcement of the adjudicator’s award.

Commercial Chancery

Tom is frequently instructed by both large companies and individuals in a variety of commercial matters, including internal partnership/shareholder disputes, external contractual claims, and confidentiality/restrictive covenant matters following the setting up of a new business. His approach is deliberately robust and pragmatic: he researches the law carefully himself but then cuts through to the key points so as to give clients the clearest possible advice, facilitating the resolution of disputes quickly on a commercial basis where possible, but also ensuring that legal focus and costs are on the decisive issues if a contested trial is necessary.

Tom also has particular experience of the law on guarantees, having provided a series of lectures on the subject for various national solicitors’ firms.

A further area of expertise is professional negligence, where Tom is particularly alive to the tactical and costs considerations which are often central to such claims, and specialises in the use of well-drafted pre-action correspondence, pleadings, and Part 36 Offers to place pressure on the other side and maximise the chances of an early settlement. He also has considerable experience of advising on the legal complications which frequently occur in this area, including the extent and scope of duties of care, the availability of different heads of damages (including loss of a chance cases), and difficult questions regarding limitation.

Notable cases in which he is currently instructed include:

  • Acting for the Claimant company against a major ferry company in relation to breach of contract and/or use of confidential information regarding a new idea for on board entertainment events
  • Acting for the Claimant golf course in proceedings for an injunction and damages relating to breach of restrictive covenants and passing off by a neighbouring course
  • Acting for the Defendant investor in a three way breach of contract claim relating to an alleged agreement regarding the release and replacement of securities and associated transfer of properties
  • Advising the prospective Claimant in a complex partnership and shareholder dispute following the breakdown of a major family property investment business and its various corporate vehicles
  • Acting for the Defendant company at trial and on appeal in a breach of contract claim brought by a major electricity supplier, raising unusual issues regarding the quantum of damages and betterment in the context of the replacement of used equipment with new equipment
  • Acting for a collection of Claimant businesses in a claim for compensation against a local authority following the use of emergency powers to restrict access to a pier on which the businesses were based
  • Acting for the Claimant in multi-party Technology and Construction Court proceedings regarding the complete collapse of the Claimant’s home following redevelopment works, including associated issues regarding damages arising from a loss of planning permission
  • Advising an agent as to commission due to him following the amalgamation of two multi-national businesses and associated issues regarding damages for loss of a chance and limitation
  • Acting for the Claimant in professional negligence proceedings against accountants relating to incorrect advice regarding VAT registration and the use of the Flat Rate scheme
  • Acting for the Claimant in professional negligence proceedings against financial advisers relating to incorrect advice to change pension funds
  • Acting for the Claimant in professional negligence proceedings against solicitors regarding the adequacy of telephone advice relating to an unusual risk arising out of the conveyance of part of a property
  • Acting for the Claimant in professional negligence proceedings against a solicitor regarding the drafting of wills, notably raising questions regarding the limits of solicitors’ duties to non-clients when drafting wills
  • Acting for a disabled Claimant in a ‘third generation’ solicitors’ negligence claim where successive firms of solicitors were each alleged to have missed limitation deadlines, raising particularly complex questions as to the starting dates of each limitation period and the method of assessing losses

Recent concluded cases in this area include:

  • Stanley v Adelphie (High Court, Chancery Division) [2016] EWHC 2147 (Ch) – Successfully represented the Claimants in this case concerning dissolution of a partnership and ownership of a business and related property.  Counsel successfully argued that the Defendant’s attempt to set aside a previous agreement on grounds of common mistake must fail as a matter of law, and that the property must be sold as a consequence
  • Ryder v Lifescan (High Court, Queen’s Bench Division) [2016] EWHC 2706 (QB) – Acted as sole Counsel for the Claimant (opposed by a QC on the other side) examining questions of misrepresentation, breach of contract and remoteness of loss in the context of advertising material sent out by a national health screening company
  • Mark Harrod Ltd v MH Goals Ltd (High Court, Chancery Division) – Acted for the Claimant in a dispute regarding the misuse of confidential information in the context of businesses supplying equipment to various leading football clubs.  Obtained emergency undertakings to prevent competition in breach of confidentiality and then resolved the matter at mediation
  • Nap (Anglia) Ltd v Sunland Development Co Ltd (High Court, Queen’s Bench Division) [2011] EWHC 2846, [2012] BLR 110, [2012] EWHC 51 – Represented the Defendant property development company in an adjudication and subsequent Technology and Construction Court proceedings regarding a construction contract.  The judgment developed principles regarding resisting the enforcement of an Adjudicator’s decision on three different grounds: breach of natural justice, on-going County Court proceedings, and the Claimant’s inability to meet a subsequent judgment, as a result of which the Defendant successfully gained a partial stay of execution of judgment
  • Raleigh v Tardival (High Court, Chancery Division) – Successfully represented the Claimant in obtaining judgment for an unpaid debt following the breakdown of a business development scheme, and then enforced that judgment by obtaining a freezing injunction over the Defendant’s assets on the basis that there was a risk of dissipation of assets abroad

Property

Tom has particular knowledge of this area, having worked as research assistant to a leading property law textbook (recently cited in several appellate decisions) while Lecturer in Law at Oxford University. His practice divides between traditional land law issues including easements, covenants, and adverse possession, and more modern trusts of land/estoppel cases, in which he is regularly instructed by various leading South Coast firms and recently appeared in a leading case widely reported across the national press.

Tom’s current ongoing cases in this area include:

  • Advising a couple in a dispute against two property development firms who seek to reduce the couple’s rights of way and rights to park to make way for their development
  • Advising a golf course as to the enforcement of restrictive covenants against a neighbouring competing course
  • Drafting proceedings in a dispute between neighbours regarding the position of boundaries and alleged adverse possession of a contested area between the properties following the recent purchase of land by the client
  • Advising a beneficiary as to the extent of an unusually worded trust of land and whether it had come to an end under the terms of the trust after the beneficiary spent a year away from the property on sabbatical
  • Advising as to the existence of a trust of land after the breakdown of a long-term relationship in which one partner had allegedly not contributed to the property at the time of purchase but had subsequently contributed both financially and in other ways
  • Advising as to the ownership of a property after a couple’s relationship broke down before they moved into the property, against the background of allegations of criminal harassment by one party to another 

His recent notable concluded property cases include:

  • Heaver v Heaver (High Court, Chancery Division) [2016] EWHC 2623 (Ch) – Successfully represented the Defendant in this nationally reported constructive trust/ proprietary estoppel trial, establishing that the Claimant had no interest whatsoever in a multi-million pound property which he had occupied with his family for over 20 years.  The case is particularly important in re-establishing that, although the Claimant had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the property, this was not enough to give him a proprietary interest because the Defendant had never made a representation or formed a common intention to that effect
  • Bell v Gimson (High Court, Chancery Division) – Successfully represented the Claimant at trial in her claim for an injunction against a property developer to enforce restrictive covenants for the protection of the Claimant’s land.  Counsel successfully argued that, although the Claimant may partially have been motivated by dislike of the property developer, it was enough if part of her motivation was for objectively reasonable property related reasons
  • Atkin v Glasgow (Court of Appeal) – Represented the Appellant at trial and on appeal in a boundary dispute, successfully obtaining a determination as to the position of the ‘paper boundary’ at trial and then obtaining permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal on the question of the enforceability of boundary agreements pursuant to s.2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989 and the limitations of the principles laid down in Yeates v Line.  As a result, the Appellant was able to agree a mutually satisfactory settlement shortly prior to the hearing of the substantive appeal
  • Southern Water v McKimm (Winchester County Court, Mr Recorder Stead) – Successfully represented the Claimant at trial, obtaining a declaration as to the existence of a right of way, an injunction and damages regarding access to commercial sewage works following obstruction by a local resident
  • Dingley v Dingley (Brighton County Court, HHJ Simpkiss QC) – Successfully represented the Claimant son at trial, establishing that a property purchased in a mother’s sole name and solely occupied by her for many years was nonetheless held on trust for her son pursuant to proprietary estoppel and/or a constructive trust, on the basis that there was an agreement to that effect and that the son had advanced monies in reliance on that agreement
  • Pilfold v Greenmanor (Court of Appeal) [2012] EWCA Civ 756 – Successfully represented the Claimant at trial, obtaining various declarations as to the existence of rights of way, rights to park, and adverse possession, and then defended the decision in the Court of Appeal.  The case was particularly notable for its recognition that complete enclosure of land is not a requirement for adverse possession to take place, and as an example of a rejection of a counterclaim for an injunction on grounds of delay

Trusts, Probate & Private Client

Tom carries out a large amount of work in this area, particularly enjoying the interaction between difficult (often ancient) case law and its application to modern relationships and unusual factual situations. He is well aware of the painful emotional family disputes which often exist in these cases, and deliberately takes a balanced approach: he listens carefully to clients’ factual concerns, gives clear practical advice designed to achieve the best result with the least possible stress, and then fights hard to achieve that result in Court.

His current ongoing cases in this area include:

  • An application for a statutory will in the context of a multi-million pound estate following the alleged breakdown of P’s relationship and disputes regarding the validity of the current will
  • A challenge to a ‘death bed’ will amending a previous will in favour of certain relatives at the expense of other relatives by a testatrix suffering from late stage cancer and consequently subject to delusions and increased suggestibility
  • A claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 concerning a multi-million pound estate spread across several continents
  • Advising in writing pursuant to a Court Order as to the meaning of a will
  • A claim rectifying a will which erroneously failed to provide for assets held outside the UK
  • A dispute between trustees as to the correct use of funds held under a discretionary trust
  • A dispute between trustees, relatives and a charity as to the interpretation and effect of an obscurely worded will
  • Obtaining permission and then acting in litigation on behalf of P to recover parts of his property that had been incorrectly dispersed

Recent notable concluded cases in this area include:

  • Deakin v Deakin (High Court Chancery Division) – successfully obtained an order striking out a claim challenging a will on the grounds of undue influence /capacity /want of knowledge and approval, on the grounds that the claim was an abuse of process
  • Shelton Agar v Motlak (High Court Chancery Division) – represented the estate at trial in a will trust dispute regarding the stewardship of property held in England for the benefit of an Iranian family.  Successfully obtained a detailed account and orders setting aside various transactions found to have been for the personal benefit of the trustees
  • Fitzgerald v Knee (Court Of Protection) – successfully represented one of P’s children at first instance and on appeal in a dispute raising an unusual point as to the interaction between the costs rules relating to property and welfare cases in the Court of Protection
  • Kaur v Khan (High Court Chancery Division) – successfully represented the Defendant at trial in a claim concerning alleged undue influence and breach of fiduciary duties in relation to a handicapped woman, her savings and her property.  All parts of the Claim were dismissed
  • Fishlock v Lundy (High Court Chancery Division) – acted for the Claimant in a challenge to a will on the grounds of a lack of formal validity (incorrect attestation by witnesses allegedly not in the room with the testatrix) which was successfully settled by negotiation just prior to trial
  • Hunter v Taylor (Brighton County Court, HHJ Coltart) – represented six Defendants in an Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act claim.  Successfully resisted an application for an interim payment on the grounds that the Claimant had attempted to divest herself of her assets prior to bringing the application, and then settled the claim at the door of Court

Local Government

Tom’s property work causes him to be frequently instructed by various local authorities, including in relation to claims to rights of way over and adverse possession of government land, and in relation to the co-ownership of property where the local authority seeks to recover debts against one co-owner. Notable recent work includes several claims for the recovery of care home fees following the death of one partner, where the other partner and/or his children have sought to prevent recovery against the former matrimonial home.

When instructed, Tom is careful to take account of the particular factors affecting local government work, including the need to avoid poor publicity, budgetary constraints, and the desirability of amicable resolution where possible. He believes that establishing good co-operative and mutually helpful relationships with local authority solicitors is a key factor in a successful case.