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Contractors and engineers dispute liability for building collapse

Posted: 10th April 2015   In: Dispute Resolution

A court has been called on to determine who was responsible for the collapse of a building – the contractors who carried out renovation work, or the engineers who drew up the plans.

The issue arose after a couple decided to convert their cellar into living accommodation. The project involved lowering the floor and then underpinning the outer walls to provide more height. The method required that the pins used should be reinforced by a basement slab section.

A firm of engineers were asked to design the structural work and prepare the necessary drawings. A contractor was then engaged to carry out the work.

The engineers undertook an initial site visit to inspect the first pin to be constructed. They informed the contractors that the work had not been carried out in accordance with the design.

The project then continued but the building collapsed before the concrete floor was due to be cast.

The engineers and the contractors blamed each other for the damage so the property owners took legal action to determine who was liable.

The court ruled in favour of the engineers. It held that their obligation was limited to providing structural designs with reasonable care and skill. There was no evidence to suggest there was anything wrong with their designs, which would have worked if they had been followed properly.

The engineers had not been negligent and were entitled to assume that the contractors would follow the plans correctly.

The court held that the contractors had failed to carry out the work properly and were therefore responsible for the collapse.

Please contact John Carter if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of professional negligence and litigation.