Galliford was retained as design and build contractor by an employer. A wholly owned subsidiary of the employer retained Motts to provide structural and building engineering services. In the pre-tender period, Galliford and Motts began to liaise directly. Shortly before Galliford was retained by the employer, it employed a sub-contractor, Rowen, to carry out and take over responsibility for steelwork design in place of Motts. At no time was there a contractual relationship between Motts and Galliford, due to problems with novation. Completion was substantially delayed. Galliford tried to argue that the cause of the delays was negligent advice given by Motts during the tender stage about the bracing of a pile wall and about supporting the existing façade.

The court held that Motts did not owe any duty of care to Galliford in relation to the issue of the pile bracing and that Motts’ design, on the balance of probabilities, had not been negligent. In any event, Galliford had not relied upon Motts in the period leading up to Galliford signing its contract with the employer.

The court also held that at no time prior to Galliford being retained as design and build contractor was there a relationship akin to a contract between Galliford and Motts. Motts was working as the engineer employed by the employer and doing what it was contractually required to do, namely the design and production of information for the procurement of tenders for the project. The fact that Motts was asked and did liaise extensively with Galliford during this period was not unusual for the performance of its contractual duties owed to the employer.