William Clark Partnership v Dock St PCT Ltd:
Citation:  EWHC 2923 (TCC)
The claimant professional services firm (William Clark Partnership) claimed £174,500 for professional fees arising from the construction of a new-build primary health care centre in Lancashire. The defendant employer (Dock St PCT Ltd) counterclaimed on the ground of alleged professional negligence in permitting a substantial overspend (some £730,000 above the contract sum) on the project. The court had to consider whether the doctrine of abatement could apply to the fees claimed by the firm on the basis of the alleged deficiencies of performance.
It was held that a distinction is still drawn in law between professionals and non-professionals for these purposes, so that professionals are still entitled to their fees where their obligations have been substantially performed, and these are not subject to abatement on the ground of professional negligence. The claimant was still entitled in principle to recover its fees. However, the defendant succeeded in establishing that there had been unnecessary variations, for which the claimant was responsible.
It was also established that the claimant had failed to provide monthly cost reports stating the actual and projected final cost of the development: ‘’ a wholesale and serious failure of a basic obligation which one would have expected any professional quantity surveyor to provide’’. There was also a breach of duty in failing to provide any detailed analysis of the final account claim, which impeded the prospect of negotiating a settlement. The damages awarded in respect of these breaches were set against the claimant’s fee entitlement. .
Justin Mort QC acted for the defendant.