Contractor liable for cladding and waking watch damages in first post-Grenfell judgement

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A contractor has been found liable for the costs of replacing combustible cladding on a tower block and paying for a waking fire watch in the first post-Grenfell fire safety judgement.

Martlet Homes, the social-housing owner of five high-rise residential tower blocks in Hampshire, appointed Mulalley & Co to refurbish the blocks in 2005 on a design and build contract.  As part of the project, Mulalley installed StoTherm Classic K external wall cladding.

Martlet brought a claim against Mulalley alleging breach of contract for installing cladding which did not comply with building regulations at the time and for defective workmanship.  Martlet also claimed for the costs of a waking fire watch during the period in which the cladding was being removed.

The hard-fought claim had been subject to earlier court hearings on causation, the admissibility of amendments to the original claim and the limitation period (see Brunel News May 2022).

In its defence, Mulalley argued that Martlet had replaced the cladding at its own cost as it had an obligation to do so due to heightened specification needed post-Grenfell, rather than defects in its work.  It also argued that the cladding met building regulations standards at the time it was installed.

The judge found for Martlet in both its defective workmanship and breach of contract claims, ruling the cladding system did not meet the relevant British Standard in force at the time.  He also decided that Martlet was entitled to recover the costs of the waking watch.

Whether the breach is the installation breach or the specification breach or – as I have found – both, it is plain that the need for temporary fire-safety measures to be taken pending a permanent solution is a natural or a reasonably contemplated consequence of such breach,” said His Honour Judge Steven Davies in awarding Martlet around £8 million in damages.

James Burgoyne, Divisional Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions says: “This case will set a precedent for many future cladding claims and building owners will be pleased to see they are likely to be able to recover the costs of setting up waking-watches as well as remedial works. The judge’s treatment of the British Board of Agrement certificate in considering the issues in this case is also of wider interest.” 

Reports about case have been published by Charles Russell SpeechlysNorton Rose Fulbright and Clyde & Co. is owned by Brunel Professions, which is a leading professional indemnity insurance broker in the UK.  Click here to get a quote or call 0345 450 1074 to speak to a broker.