Contractors' Questions: Will a digital client who employed me likely sue?

Contractor’s Question: As a freelance web developer, I’m interested to know the potential for legal action against me relating to work I did a few years ago for a digital design agency that once employed me.

The agency took me on a year after I went freelance because I worked on their project initially while employed by them, so they knew I had the skills and background.

But now, the agency is being taken to court by the client who feels the project wasn't delivered properly and damaged their business. How liable I could be is concerning me, as is the prospect that, if the agency does get sued, they might retaliate by suing me.

Expert’s Answer: Firstly, you need to appreciate the difference between an independent contractor and an employee. With regard to the former, an individual contracts to perform services for others without having the legal status of the latter.

You state that you are freelance web developer and thus, would be legally viewed as an independent contractor. You have also told me however, that you were previously employed by the digital agency and had worked on the project while under their employment.

Addressing the question of your liability is unfortunately not straightforward – we would need to obtain a copy of your employment contract / independent contractor agreement.

Nevertheless, you should comprehend that independent contractors normally bear full responsibility for their actions. Consequently, the employer will not be deemed ‘vicariously liable,’ save for exceptional circumstances. If the client is suing the agency, the latter could try and sue you to recover the losses they incur from the litigation battle.

Moreover, the client can also file a separate lawsuit against you. It is therefore imperative that you promptly contact a solicitor and receive professional legal advice on this matter.

The expert was Mekael Rahman, trainee solicitor at Lawdit Solicitors.

Tuesday 9th June 2015