Addleshaw Goddard

UK 200 2013 position: 23

When does negligence caused by others break the chain of causation?

In Flanagan and another v Greenbanks Ltd (t/a Lazenby Insulation) and Cross [2013] EWCA Civ 1702, the Court of Appeal, by a 2:1 majority, provided guidance on assessing whether there had been a break in the chain of causation, applying the principles previously set out in Borealis AB v Geogas Trading SA [2010] and demonstrating that this is an issue that is still ripe for discussion.

Mr Cross, a surveyor, put a proposition to Lazenby, a contractor, that he could deliver customers to Lazenby for cavity wall insulation (CWI). As nothing was recorded in writing, contractual terms were implied. Lazenby was a member of two out of the three trade bodies with governing standards for CWI, which set out guidance on inspection standards (the British Board of Agreement [BBA] and Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency [CIGA]), and Mr Cross was not. Additionally, Lazenby’s T&Cs with the homeowners included clauses to the effect that, if Lazenby began installation but found that the structure of the home was not suitable, Lazenby was entitled to terminate the contract. More than once throughout their relationship, Lazenby’s installers had been required to make use of this clause.

In November 2005, one of Mr Cross’s employees failed to check that two homes were suitable for CWI. In September 2006, Lazenby went ahead and installed the CWI, admittedly failing itself to check the suitability of the homes. The original claim by the homeowners against Lazenby was settled but Lazenby served an additional claim against Mr Cross…

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