A high court judge has decided that negligence claims against construction sub-contractors must be made within six years of the faulty work being handed over.
Previously there was authority for claims to be allowed for potentially up to 18 years after the event.The decision brings greater clarity to time limits in construction negligence cases. It follows two recent cases heard by the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) which had offered conflicting views.
The case, Interface Europe v Premier Hank Dyers, concerns carpet tiles supplied to a Swiss Bank. The carpet tiles had changed colour in sunlight from a discrete grey to an alarming green over a number of years. The provider of the yarn for the carpet brought a negligence claim against the manufacturer of the dye used in their manufacture.
The judge decided that the case was time-barred as the negligence claim was made more than six years after the faulty yarn was handed over to the provider of the carpet tiles. He considered two recent TCC cases. In Linklaters v Sir Robert McAlpine the court had decided that the six year time limit only started when a claim was made against the main contractor, which could be up to 12 years after the completion of a project. In contrast, in Co-operative v Birse, a different judge had decided that the six year limitation period started when the faulty work was actually handed over by the sub-contractor. The latest decision favours the Birse approach.
“This case brings much needed clarity to limitation periods in construction claims,” said James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professional Risks. “By agreeing with the decision in Co-operative v Birse, the judge has sent out a very clear message that the six year limitation period starts as soon as the faulty work is handed over. This means that it is essential that limitation is considered early and claims are brought against sub-contractors as soon as any fault is discovered if necessary. It also offers some reassurance to professionals regarding their own tortious liability ending in a much shorter time.”