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Professional Negligence

Client: Privately owned property development company
Situation: A dispute arose relating to alleged defects in the design of a group of residential buildings prior to construction, their site having been sold with a Planning Permission in place. The purchaser claimed that the approved design was not buildable. Probyn Miers was required to comment on whether the design was defective as claimed, and whether it could in fact be built, and on the services provided by the buildings’ designer.
Action: Probyn Miers provided a report on the practicalities of the design.
Result: The case settled at pre-action stage.


Client: Solicitors for the building owner
Situation: Completion of the £15M new building required a variety of additions and modifications which substantially increased the contract sum.  The building owner wished to ascertain the degree to which the architect as lead consultant and contract administrator might be held responsible or liable for these increases.  Twenty representative individual issues were selected for a preliminary analysis.
Action: Probyn Miers visited the site, examined documents and drawings relevant to the selected issues, and produced a report.  The architect’s professional handling of the project was found to be deficient in some respects, but several other factors such as QS mis-measurement and the consequences of client-directed variations were also found to have contributed to the cost overrun.
Result: Probyn Miers report assisted the building owner and its advisers to assess the performance of the architect.


Client: Owner of Residential Care Home
Situation: The Residential Care Home owner had commissioned architects to redesign, extend and upgrade her existing care home. The architects prepared a design and administered the construction contract through to completion. On completion the local authorities refused to register many of the rooms due to their poor and inadequate size. Probyn Miers was commissioned to investigate the situation and to consider the performance of the architects.
Action: We reviewed the design and found that a number of rooms were indeed: undersized. We prepared an alternative design which could have been produced at the time, and which would have provided the same accommodation at no significant cost and with no undersized rooms.
Result: The dispute was not settled and went to trial resulting in a substantial award of damages for our client.


Client: Privately owned property development company
Situation: The case concerned delayed completion and increased costs in the construction of two mixed use buildings, involving employer’s claims against various consultants, with allegations of late, incomplete and defective design information (including issues of buildability); disputes over the scope of the architect’s services; non-payment of the architect’s fees; and claims about incorrect advice on procurement.  Probyn Miers was appointed to provide an opinion on standards of architectural design, workmanship and contract administration.
Action: Probyn Miers issued reports during litigation on subjects as instructed by the client’s solicitors.
Result: Probyn Miers provided an expert opinion on the matters in dispute.


Client: Homeowners
Situation: Conversion and extension of an existing building to form a new dwelling was halted when it was discovered that the works could not be constructed in accordance with the Planning Permission design.  Probyn Miers opinion was required in response to an expert report produced on behalf of the architect responsible for the design.
Action: Probyn Miers produced a report for litigation.
Result: Probyn Miers provided an expert opinion on the matters in dispute.


Client: Consultant Engineers
Situation: This case concerned a District General Hospital where the Hospital Trust was bringing an action against all of the consultants including Project Manager, Project Architect and Engineers. We were employed as expert architects to review the performance of the architects.
Action: Particular issues of concern were the entitlement to extensions of time granted to the main contractor, and various other technical matters, in particular the integration of the mechanical and electrical works and the provision of co-ordinated drawings. We gave expert evidence at the trial on this matter.
Result: As a result the matter went to trial and a judgement was handed down.


Client: Architect/PI insurer
Situation: Following flooding, a homeowner claimed that the design of his house was fundamentally flawed, due to errors by the architect, and that the house would have to be rebuilt.Analysis of the testing and research work carried out by the architect in the course of the design.
Action: Advice provided on architect’s performance of his duties in relation to site investigations and testing.
Result: Claim settled at pre-action stage.


Client: Solicitors for architect and PI insurers
Situation: New accommodation had been built for a well-known secondary school with a large residential campus in the south of England.  Water ingress occurred around window openings and through brickwork features.  The Claimant was mainly concerned with faulty construction by the Contractor, but also alleged faulty design and inadequate inspection by the architect.
Action: Probyn Miers was appointed to give expert opinion.  This raised issues of brickwork detailing and weathering and the extent of the architect’s inspection duties.  Probyn Miers prepared a report for the client.
Result: The case was settled at mediation.


Client: Solicitors for architect and PI insurers
Situation: The property was extended including construction of a deep basement with the basement accessed via specialist lift.  The client was unhappy with the operation of the lift.  Remedial works were not successful and the lift was replaced.  The client brought proceedings against the architect as the consultant involved in dealing with the specialist lift manufacturer.
Action: Probyn Miers was appointed to give expert opinion on the architect’s liability when a specialist subcontractor is appointed with responsibility for design as well as manufacture and installation.  This was at the time of the judgement in Cooperative Group Limited v John Allen Associates Limited [2010], dealing with this issue.  Probyn Miers’ view was that the architect had a duty to advise about procurement and was vulnerable unless there was a direct contractual relationship between the client and the specialist.
Result: The matter was settled at mediation.


Client: Solicitors for building owner/occupier
Situation: A new car dealership had been built, with the workshop at first floor due to site constraints.  The workshop floor was tiled as required by the car manufacturer.  Soon after occupation tiles started delaminating from the pre-stressed concrete floor units on which they had been laid.  The car dealership claimed against the architect for the cost of replacing the tiles, alleging failures in the performance of its design and inspection duties.
Action: Probyn Miers was appointed to give expert opinion on the cause of the tiling defects and on the architect’s design and inspection liability.  This raised issues of differential movement between the tiling and the supporting suspended structure, both short-term reversible movement due to temperature cycles and long-term irreversible movement due to shrinkage of the concrete.  These had not been considered adequately, perhaps because the workshop was normally at ground level with a ground-bearing slab which would experience much less movement.  Probyn Miers prepared a report which was exchanged with the other side.
Result: The case settled at mediation.


Client: Solicitor for house owner, defending a claim from builder for unpaid invoices. 

The client purchased a large detached country house in need of substantial renovation.  Understandably, the architect’s first move was to get the building envelope weathertight.  It was logical to keep out the rain and let the building dry before proceeding with any internal works.  The architect obtained just one tender and let a JCT Minor Works Building Contract worth £180,000. 

Subsequently the architect began to instruct the contractor to carry out refurbishment works not in the scope of the re-roofing works.  As prices for parts of the work came in, the overall cost escalated beyond the total cost anticipated and beyond the client’s budget.  The initial Minor Works re-roofing contract was progressively enlarged for the internal refurbishment to a total value of almost £1.3m, 7 times its original value. 

An early start on site by no means guarantees early completion.  The construction period lasted 2 years and 3 months. 

Action: Probyn Miers was appointed to give expert opinion on the architect’s performance as contract administrator, the architect’s inspections, forms of contract adopted, responsibility of contractor / architect / client for delay, cost of remedial works and other specific issues defined by the instructing solicitor.
Result: The dispute was settled at mediation.

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