The claimant, Hart Investments, sought to hold the first defendant, Fidler, responsible for the collapse of part a building that Hart owned. Fidler was a structural engineer and denied responsibility for the collapse. He was employed by both the claimant and the second defendant, building contractor Larchpark.

Hart alleged that Fidler was liable to the firm in contract, or alternatively in tort, for two alleged failings:

1 Failing to design any, or any appropriate scheme for the temporary support of underpinning, which surrounded a deep basement excavation; and/or

2 Failing to require the contractor to take precautions so as to support the underpinning when Fidler allegedly saw that the underpinning was unsupported.

Fidler argued that he had no contractual responsibility to Hart for the temporary works, which included the propping of the underpinning. He further argued that: he owed no tortuous duty to the claimant to prevent economic loss of the sort claimed; he had in any event designed an appropriate scheme; he had not seen anything to suggest that the contractor had not carried out his design; and he did not in any event cause the collapse in question.

The issues before the court were: what if any of the design of the temporary works for the propping had been carried out by Fidler; what had Fidler observed before the collapse; the extent of Fidler’s contractual responsibility; whether Fidler owed Hart a tortuous duty; and whether the Fidler’s failures caused the collapse.