On 9 January 2001, Ian Gray, a fire alarm installation engineer and employee of Fire Alarm Fabrication Services Limited (FAFS) fell through a skylight window in the roof of a building at Victoria Station. He died as a result of the injuries he sustained.

This was an appeal by E H Humphries (Norton) Limited (EHH) and Thistle Hotels Plc (Thistle) against the decision that they were both liable to contribute to the damages which FAFS had paid to Mr Gray’s estate, on the basis that they were negligent and such negligence caused or contributed to Mr Gray’s accident.

Thistle had engaged EHH as the electrical contractor to carry out works at Thistle’s hotel. EHH had then engaged FAFS as the subcontractor to carry out the requisite fire alarm system modifications. The route for the electrical cables for the system had not been decided when FAFS started work. FAFS unilaterally decided to route the cables externally and Mr Gray went on to an adjacent roof owned by Railtrack and fell through it.

The trial judge found that no one had made it clear to FAFS that the option of external cabling was not to be pursued and, further, that it was up to FAFS to decide on the most appropriate route. EHH had been negligent in failing to obtain a proper method statement or risk assessment from FAFS and Thistle had been negligent in not disclosing that Railtrack did not allow anyone to go onto its roof except in accordance with its own permit system.

On appeal, EHH and Thistle contended that FAFS had been positively instructed not to route the cable externally and that it had not been open to the judge to find that FAFS’ representatives believed that it was for FAFS to decide which route to take and that accordingly EHH and Thistle were not in breach of any duty of care owed to Mr Gray.

Whether the trial judge was entitled to find that EHH’s right to supervise the work so as to ensure that it was carried out safely imposed on it a duty of care which extended to FAFS’ employees; whether circumstances existed such that a duty of care could be imposed on EHH or Thistle to take care to avoid the accident which had occurred; and whether EHH was entitled to a contractual indemnity from FAFS in respect of damages under the provisions of their subcontact.