Goldswain and Hale v Beltec Ltd
Citation:  EWHC 556 TCC, 159 Con LR 46
Nature of case:
The claimants, who held a long lease over the ground floor flat and cellar of a property in North London, sought to convert the cellar into living accommodation. The essential under-pinning and other structural works were designed by the first defendant engineers and carried out by the second defendant contractor. Just over a month after construction, cracks began to develop, followed by a sudden, major collapse of the fabric of the house, necessitating an emergency evacuation. The local authority deemed that the main part of the house constituted a dangerous structure and ordered that it be demolished.
The claimants brought actions against both the engineers and contractor, obtaining a judgment in default against the latter. The hearing concerned the extent of the obligations of the first defendant as professional engineers for the design of the temporary works. The decision is important for its consideration of the circumstances in which, in the absence of an express contractual obligation, an engineer may owe a duty to advise on temporary work design. The Judge also considered the circumstances where an engineer might be under a duty to warn about the contractor’s work and gave a helpful review of the authorities on this issue. On the facts, the court found that professional negligence by the engineers was not established. Breaches of contract by the contractor in failing to provide propping and in failing to construct the basement slab in accordance with the engineer’s design “undoubtedly caused the collapse”.
Counsel: Gideon Scott Holland appeared on behalf of the Claimants.