Greenwich Millennium Village v Essex Services Group and Others

Citation: [2014] EWHC 1099 (TCC), [2014] TCLR 4, [2013] 3059 (TCC), 151 Con LR 1

Greenwich Millennium Village Ltd (“GMV”) brought subrogated claims against several defendants, in respect of catastrophic flooding which had occurred on a residential development owned by GMV, which had been the result of various failures in construction, and which caused £4.75 million worth of damage.  The complexity and ineptitude of the contractual arrangements involved were such as to provoke Coulson J assessment of the failures as “death by sub-contracting”.  At issue in the case were the causes of two separate but related failures in the building’s cold water system, and which parties were responsible for those causes.

Coulson J held that the first failure had been caused both by the presence of metallic debris in the water system, and the over-tightening of a nut that formed part of that system.  As there were two interdependent causes of the first failure, Essex Services would have been liable for the resulting damages if they had been responsible for either one.  In the event, Essex Services were responsible for both causes, but their liability had been passed down the contractual chain via HSE to D G Robson Mechanical Services Limited.

Coulson J, in relation to the second failure, held that there were two causes of that failure, the installation of a non-return valve where none belonged, and the leaving of an isolation valve in the closed position. Either of these causes would have prevented the critical Anti Surge Valve from operating.  These being independent effective causes of the failure, the Judge therefore departed from the ‘but for’ test of causation, and held that both causes were effective causes of the resulting damage.  Both Essex Service and Hoare Lea were responsible for the second failure, with liability apportioned to each at 60% and 40% respectively.  Essex Service’s liability was again passed down the contractual chain via HSE to D G Robson Mechanical Services.

Link to Judgment

Counsel: Piers Stansfield QC appeared on behalf of the Claimant and Simon Hargreaves QC appeared on behalf of the Respondent/Third Party.


Piers Stansfield KC
Simon Hargreaves KC

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