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Eden-founder Ball goes back to court - in row with solicitor

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Beleaguered architect Jonathan Ball has issued a writ against Eden Project solicitors Druces & Attlee, claiming that during his time as part of the Eden Project the law firm had shown negligence in dealing with him as a client, writes Steven Palmer.

Ball's current solicitor, McDermott, Will & Emery, issued the writ on 7 November. The writ, seen by the AJ, reads: 'The claimant's claim is for damages for breach of contract made between the claimant and the defendant in late 1994, and/or damages for breach of confidentiality and fiduciary duty and/or negligence, arising out of the defendant's performance, from late 1994 to March/April 1997, of its continuing retainer as the claimant's solicitor, to act and advise on his behalf concerning his rights, interests and legitimate expectations as co-founder of The Eden Project at Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall.'

Ball and co-founder Tim Smit had been working on the Eden Project since 1994, but established a formal company in June 1997. But Ball alleges that Smit was given preferential treatment by the company and that company solicitors Druces & Attlee also acted against his interests.

Last week Ball talked to the AJ: 'The matter went before the deputy master to establish whether or not Druces & Attlee should be formally disqualified from acting for the Eden Trust and Project against me in my High Court action. The deputy master came to the view that these matters were so serious that he directed the matter should go to the High Court next week.'

However, sources close to the trial told the AJ that Druces & Attlee disputes the claim, and alleges that it never acted for Ball in a 'personal capacity.'

Ball's mission to seek compensation for his part in the Eden Project has been a lengthy one which has garnered sympathy from many in the profession. Bob Giles, ex RIBA vice-president and council member said: 'Tim Smit deserves credit for his original idea. But without Jonathan's support and contacts in business and finance they would never have got the project off the ground.

Jonathan was a major force in pushing the project forward. He has been treated abominably and in a ghastly manner, which I just can't explain.' Giles added that Ball had 'given himself over totally to [the project], to the exclusion of all else', and that the partnership of Smit and Ball had 'turned a gleam in an eye into an idea with flesh on it'.

The writ also states that Ball expects to recover more than £15,000, although the figure may be considerably more. Duncan Curle, solicitor acting for Ball at McDermott, Will & Emery, stated: 'The amount we are seeking will not be specified. We are now waiting for a date to go to court.'

Eden architect Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners and Druces & Attlee declined to comment.

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