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Couple settle legal battle with Lloyds

A couple who successfully sued Lloyds Bank for negligence after a failed property development lost them money claimed yesterday to have won the final round of a seven-year legal battle. Julia Verity and Richard Spindler, who made legal history when the High Court ruled against Lloyds two years ago, said yesterday they had settled out of court a counter-claim by the bank.

The couple, an acupuncturist and teacher who already owned two houses when they took out a mortgage at the height of the late 1980s property boom, were awarded pounds 77,500 damages in September 1995. The court ruled Lloyds had been negligent in advising them to buy a third property with a view to renovating it just before the housing market crashed.

They then faced bankruptcy six months later when, in a separate case, Lloyds was successful in a counter-claim against the couple to recover pounds 104,000, after they had failed to service the debt on the investment property. The award included the outstanding loan on the property and other business and personal loans they had taken out with Lloyds.

The settlement announced yesterday followed an appeal by the couple against the counter-claim on the basis that the original pounds 77,500 award had been incorrectly calculated. Specifically, they said, it did not take into account a loss incurred by the couple when they sold one of their two existing properties to help pay their losses.

They said yesterday: "The overall effect of the two High Court judgments was that we owed the bank more money despite having proved that the bank's advice was negligent."

The settlement is understood to have drawn a line under the remaining debt owed by the couple to Lloyds. They said yesterday: "We are very glad and relieved that it is all over. It has been a long, arduous and perilous journey through the legal process."

Lloyds Bank, which admitted it was constrained in what it could say about the case because of client confidentiality agreements, said: "We are very glad Mr Spindler and Mrs Verity have dropped their appeal and agreed to an out-of-court settlement. The bank has always made strenuous efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement with the couple."

Mr Spindler, 38, and Mrs Verity, 57, are now understood to be living together in Henley-on-Thames but to have decided to separate. In a joint statement, they added: "It is nine years since the negligent advice and our lives have been totally disrupted by being in such insurmountable debt."

When the first award was made against Lloyds there was speculation it would open a floodgate of claims against banks from people who had taken a gamble on the housing market only to see their investments turn sour as prices fell.