From a frightening beginning, this claim around negligence would appear to reach a fairly sensible conclusion
I was recently reviewing February’s TCC’s published decisions whereupon I stumbled upon the case 199 Knightsbridge Development Ltd vs WSP UK Ltd. For those of you not familiar with this, the case revolved around a claim for negligence against WSP for their alleged failure to correctly design the pumped water system on a new luxury block of flats in London, and of course a significant and ultimately costly water leak occurred.
Upon reading the decision, particularly the introduction section, you would be forgiven for thinking that an incredibly “high bar” now exists in the discharge of professional obligations in regards to design standards. WSP successfully argued that the particular failure that occurred had never in fact previously been heard of at the time of their design (either by them or other design practices), despite this general design solution having been used for a number of years.
Upon first blush this is a formidable burden upon designers, akin to suggesting that the philosophers of the 16th century were negligent in stating that the world was flat
However, it was alluded to (at para. 7 of the decision) that WSP as competent engineers “should have foreseen the problem and taken steps to deal with it”.
This upon first blush is a formidable burden upon designers, akin to suggesting that the philosophers of the 16th century were negligent in stating that the world was flat because it is clear from our present satellite imagery and scientific knowledge that it is round.
Thankfully for the professional designers, having read through a very considered judgement which deals with a multitude of very particular circumstances the judge, in conclusion, found that due to particular technical developments between the original design and the completion of the installation WSP, should have made their client aware of these developments and suggested the installation of additional components that were then available to prevent what was by that stage a foreseeable failure. In the event in this particular matter, the claimant’s case against WSP was dismissed because if was found that even if WSP had provided this updated advice [which it didn’t] the claimant was unlikely to have adopted it.
Hence from a frightening beginning, the case would appear to reach a fairly sensible conclusion. However it is a case that should remind all designers and other professionals that they are required to be kept abreast of all the latest developments relevant to their practice area at regular intervals to prevent claims of negligence.
Ryan Greening is a director at Bennington Green