Grenfell Tower; contractor held liable for unsafe cladding

19 August 2022

Nyree Applegarth, Partner and Head of Property Disputes, reflects on the first full trial judgement relating to building safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

The first High Court judgment handed down following a full trial of issues relating to building safety since the Grenfell Tower disaster is significant for many reasons.

The decision in Martlet Homes Limited v. Mulalley & Co was hotly-anticipated as it has implications for UK building owners facing similar cladding issues, as well as the wider construction industry as a whole.

Although obviously every case is fact specific, the decision will be important for shaping the views of potential parties to litigation and their insurers as to the likelihood of success and the amounts that may be recoverable. 

Martlet is part of the Hyde Housing Group, one of the largest housing associations in England, owning or managing some 50,000 homes in England.

Ultimately the design and build contractor, Mulalley, was held liable for the specification and installation of unsafe cladding on residential tower blocks between 2005 and 2008.  Damages were awarded for the cost of replacing the cladding and maintaining the waking watch until that work was completed. 

The case is important because it sets out findings as to what was expected of the contractor.  This included a conclusion that the amended form of JCT Design and Build Contract included an unqualified design and specification duty. It also contained reasonable skill and care provisions which the contractor had also breached. 

The court also looked at whether the contractor was in breach of specifying the cladding or for its installation.  The Judge found that the breaches related to both the specification and installation which justifies replacing the cladding. 

He was also of the view that if the breaches related only to installation, damages would have been limited to the cost of repairing the cladding rather than its replacement. 

More significant court cases are sure to follow as the Grenfell Tower fallout continues.

We have worked with numerous clients and helped them to navigate through a complex legal framework, to resolve, wherever possible, issues that have come to the fore since the Grenfell fire, relating to ACM and other unsafe building cladding.

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