The Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge's decision that the architects were primarily liable. This was because it was common ground that there was some risk of the cooking setting fire, and that fire would spread to the EPS panels and it was the architect that had failed to specify fire resistant panels. However, the Court of Appeal considered that the next question was whether the claimant had suffered damage partly as a result of its own fault. Sahib had been at fault in two respects. First, it had caused the fire and, second, its production manager had failed to tell the supplier of the panels that a bratt pan would be placed in the kitchen. The Court of Appeal therefore reduced the damages by 66% for Sahib's contributory negligence.
*Full case details
Sahib Foods Limited (In Liquidation) v. Paskin Kyriakides Sands (a firm), 19 December 2003, Court of Appeal, Lord Justices Clarke, Potter and Ward
For further information, call Tony Francis or Nicholas Gould on 0207 956 9354
This is an important case identifying the correct approach that the courts will adopt when contributory negligence is alleged. If there is an allegation of contributory negligence, then one should turn to the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945. The starting point, is then to consider whether the claimant suffered damage "partly" as a result of his own fault. If he did, as in this case, then the court will decide the appropriate reduction to the damages in respect of that contributory negligence. The case acts as a reminder to clients to ensure that the information provided by them or their employees to the design team is adequate. In addition, it also reminds the design team that information provided by employers should be thoroughly investigated, especially where the risk of fire is concerned.