University challenge for quantity surveyor

Roger Pearson previews a case in which a firm of quantity surveyors is being challenged over the quality of its supervisory work

A major damages claim which focuses on the liability of quantity surveyors' responsibilities when supervising building contracts is now heading for the High Court's Official Referees.

The claim has been launched by the University of Sheffield against Sheffield-based chartered quantity surveyor the Monaghan Partnership.

The university is suing the surveyor for more than £800,000, accusing it, inter alia, of breach of contract.

The claim relates to alteration and refurbishment work carried out to the main library, toilets, three buildings, known as Northgate, Westcourt and Portabello, for the department of archaeology and prehistory, and improvements to the department of English literature, the St George's IT centre, the Arts Tower and the department of politics.

The university says it retained the Monaghan Partnership to act as contract administrator and quantity surveyor for the work.

But it alleges that the firm acted in breach of contract and duty of care and carried out valuation exercises in an "arbitrary, inconsistent and inaccurate manner", and that it did not properly assess the value of the work.

The university also claims that sums were rounded up to the nearest £1,000, and alleges that the firm failed to exercise any control over costs arising; failed to produce fair and accurate valuations; allowed costs to be charged to the contracts which were unrelated to the subject of the projects; and failed to require supporting documentation.

In addition, it accuses the firm of failing to issue certificates of practical completion or certificates of non-completion, and failing to report properly to the university.

The university claims its total loss is in the region of £850,000 for variations and overcharges. It also believes that much of the work that was charged for was not carried out, although it is unable to provide a figure which reflects this element of its loss and claims that Monaghan's services were "valueless".

The action has been launched on behalf of the university by Hammond Suddards.