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Early work leads to an implied payment

Latchin v General Mediterranean Holdings SA and others (Court of Appeal - 16 December 2003)

The claimant, Mr Latchin, was an experienced architect who had produced a large number of drawings and prints on four projects for the two defendants.

He said that he was engaged under contract by the defendants to carry out the work and that he should be paid for it.

The defendants argued that there was no contractual basis for the work and that it was done on a speculative basis anticipating that fees would be earned if any of the projects proceeded and Mr Latchin were appointed as architect. The defendants claimed that as the project did not proceed, Mr Latchin was not entitled to payment.

At first instance, the judge concluded that although there was no express agreement reached at any time, there came a point when an agreement for fees to be paid must be implied.

The Court of Appeal agreed. Although Mr Latchin was interested in the ultimate job, it did not follow that he would do unlimited work for no pay. The court found that "in absence of any other facts, the giving to, and carrying out of, instructions by a professional normally gives rise to an implied promise to pay because no other explanation of those facts makes commercial sense ..."

On the facts, the normal implication flowing from instructions and works stood rebutted for an initial period only. Mr Latchin then became entitled to reasonable payment.

Comment: Although each case turns on its own facts, this case shows that the giving to and carrying out of instructions by a professional normally gives rise to an implied promise to pay by the person giving the instructions. - Stavry Onissiphorou, BLM London.
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