The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has announced that it has struck an associate solicitor from a leading international firm for allegedly sending misleading emails to obscure the collapse of his case.
Associate Rajpal Singh Ahluwalia, 40 this year, was based in Clyde & Co’s London office in May 2013 when a case he was working on was subjected to a default judgment following a missed deadline for service of the defence. In the aforementioned case, the court awarded the claimant damages of £500,000, plus interest and costs.
ber 2013, Ahluwalia attempted to send an email to his insurance broker client, but the message did not arrive on time because the address specified was suspiciously incorrect, according to the Law Society Gazette
SDT, following a three-day hearing last month, said that it was “inescapable” that the solicitor had purposely used the wrong address, ensuring that the report would not arrive.
The email also reportedly omitted key facts, including that offers of settlement had been made in January 2013; that a defence had been served in May that year; and the default judgment entered on the same day.
To these allegations, Ahluwalia denied that he made a “false paper trail” by sending the email to a spoof address, reasoning that he had been trying in vain to get approval for the defence from his supervisory partner.
Ahluwalia allegedly sent a “wholly misleading” update to the insurance broker, maintaining that the court had set aside its judgment and was proceeding with substantive directions. He also accused the claimant solicitors of attempting to seek a procedural advantage, despite his firm having a hand in the default judgement. He claimed that he was working under “extreme pressure” but agreed under cross-examination he had known the case had gone south prior to contacting the broker.
Ahluwalia was suspended by the firm in November 2014, and he resigned less than a week later.
Although the SDT considered Ahluwalia an effective solicitor, it ruled that his conduct caused his firm financial and reputational damage; he has been found guilty of dishonesty and lack of integrity on three counts.
The Law Society Gazette
reported that on top of being struck off the roll, Ahluwalia was ordered to pay about £41,000 in costs.
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