Clyde victory sees subcontractors liable for asbestos exposure

Clyde & Co has won an asbestos case in the Technology and Construction Court that means subcontractors can be found liable for asbestos exposure.



Clyde & Co has won an asbestos case in the Technology and Construction Court that means subcontractors can be found liable for asbestos exposure.

In a four-year legal battle, Southfield School for Girls sued Clyde & Co construction client Briggs & Forrester for exposing it to asbestos.

The construction company had subcontracted the asbestos removal to specialist company B&W, which charged £725 for the work. It was later discovered that while removing the asbestos B&W had exposed the school to the toxic material.

The school claimed £7m, inclusive of damages, interest and costs from the main contractor, which admitted liability but disputed the level of damages.

Partner Victor Rae-Reeves, who led the case for Clyde & Co, said the defendant was aware that the claim “for which Briggs & Forrester would be liable as the main contractor, would attract enormous sympathy from the court”.

In March, Briggs & Forrester opted to settle the claim through arbitration for £3.1m and looked to recover its losses, including costs, from B&W in the Technology and Construction Court.

Despite there being no formal contract between the main contractor and subcontractor, Judge Frances Kirkham granted full indemnity to Briggs & Forrester, ordering B&W to pay £3.1m plus costs.

She concluded that B&W had shown “overwhelming evidence of poor working practices”, adding that it was reasonable for the school to claim higher levels of compensation because of the cost of clearing up the exposure.

Reynolds Porter Chamberlain partner Stuart White represented B&W. White said an appeal was likely.

Shoosmiths dispute resolution partner Angela Taylor represented Southfield School.