- The ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal recently considered a solicitor’s duty of care when providing advice in conveyancing transactions and whether that duty extended to emphasising the need to obtain an asbestos report.
- The extent of a solicitor’s duty of care to a client depends on the circumstances, including the facts and the sophistication and understanding of the client.
In the recent case of Shields v Natlaw Pty Ltd & Anor (Civil Dispute)  ACAT 44, the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal considered a solicitor’s duty of care in conveyancing transactions and whether that duty extended to emphasising the need to obtain an asbestos report.
The solicitors acted for the purchasers (first time buyers) of a 1950s property in the ACT. The purchasers had a building inspection carried out and obtained a building report. The building report contained a disclaimer to the effect that no assessment for the presence of asbestos had been carried out and no report was provided on whether asbestos might be present. The report included ACT Government fact sheets warning that houses built prior to 1985 were likely to contain asbestos.
It was common ground the solicitor took the purchasers through the contract documentation which included the building report containing the asbestos disclaimer and identifying possible additional reports that could, or should, be obtained.