Morgan Cole gets £210K damages from Lloyds TSB

Morgan Cole has won damages of £210,000 from its former London landlord Lloyds TSB after suffering years of discomfort and embarrassment over having to continually apologise to clients for its failing air-conditioning system.
The firm resorted to legal action after numerous attempts to resolve the problem with Lloyds TSB concerning its 167 Fleet Street office. The bank recently sold its interest in the building, but was found to have breached its covenant to supply air-conditioning in an efficient manner over the previous six years.
Michael Black QC, presiding in the Technology and Construction Court, found that the system had been defective for a grand total of 1,380 days since Morgan Cole moved into the building in May 1995, amounting to almost four years.
The firm also suffered complaints from staff, and one assistant solicitor cited the problem as one of the reasons behind his decision to leave the firm, the court heard late last month.
Guy Featherstonehaugh of Falcon Chambers for the claimant said that Morgan Cole received complaints from clients that meetings were uncomfortable, the atmosphere was stuffy and the temperature too high in the summer and too low during the winter. The air-conditioning system was frequently noisy, which also disrupted client meetings, and the problems were inconsistent with the professional image that Morgan Cole sought to portray, the court heard. Staff ranging from partners to secretaries gave evidence during the case.
Black found that, although Morgan Cole's evidence was subjective, its complaints were justified in many respects. There was overwhelming evidence that the maintenance regime was poor, despite attempts by Lloyds TSB to overcome the problems.
Morgan Cole property litigator Robin Edwards, who worked on the case with partner Leslie Gascoigne, said: “We tried to resolve the problem without litigation, but in the end we had to issue proceedings; and those proceedings led to a five or six-day trial. You're always reluctant to sue your own landlord. You want to have a happy relationship, not a sour one.”
He added: “It was strange taking witness statements from people who are normally the ones to take witness statements from others, and it's strange for people at the firm to give evidence and find themselves in the witness box.”
The £210,000 damages award includes interest, and Morgan Cole now awaits a decision on costs. Edwin Johnson of 9 Old Square was instructed by CMS Cameron McKenna for the defendant.