There were 3 causes of action in the case: under the Defective Premises Act 1972 (DPA); a landlord obligation in the lease; and a tortious duty of care.
The issue in relation to the DPA claim was (again) limitation. The Act provides that ‘a person taking on work for or in connection with the provision of a dwelling … owes a duty … to see that the work … is done in a workmanlike or, as the case may be, professional manner, with proper materials and so that as regards that work the dwelling will be fit for habitation when completed’. By s. 1(4) the duty also extends to anyone arranging for another to take on that work – essentially, developers.
The question here then was whether the effect is to restart the clock for all works, or only for the works done at the later date. Applying the Court of Appeal decision in Alderson v Beetham Organisation Ltd the judge said that the effect of s1(5) was not to restart the limitation clock in respect of the original works. Judge LJ had made this clear in Alderson when he stated: 'there are two separate causes of action, the first relating to the quality of the original building work, and the second to the quality of the remedial work. For the purposes of the first cause of action, time starts to run when the dwelling is completed, and, for the second, when the remedial work is finished.' In Sportcity the particulars of claims showed that the cause of action related to the original works, not any of the works done (or omitted to be done) in 2014 or 2017. This meant that the DPA claim could not proceed as it was statute-barred.
The claim under the lease was peculiar. It turned on the defendant being the landlord and subject to the landlord’s obligations, but the judge found that the defendant was not the landlord, and so there could be no breach of the lease covenant by them.Murphy v Brentwood the duty did not extend to covering such losses. Counsel for the claimant made no submissions on this latter point and accepted that the authorities compelled the judge to conclude that the losses were irrecoverable as pure economic loss. It has been argued that this inability to recover for economic loss makes no sense in the context of defective buildings, but as Professor McKendrick points out although it might be possible to get the Supreme Court to reconsider this, litigating the point would be risky. In the meantime, lower courts are bound by the decision in Murphy.
How to cite this blog post (Harvard style)
Bright, S. (2020). Some litigation hurdles: limitation (again) and inability to recover for economic loss. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/housing-after-grenfell/blog/2020/07/some-litigation-hurdles-limitation-again-and-inability-recover (Accessed [date])