Architects who designed an inadequate drainage system for a warehouse were liable in negligence to the occupiers for resulting flood damage where a third party had discovered the inadequacy following an earlier flood but had not conveyed that information to the occupiers. There was no break in causation between the architect’s want of care and the damage caused. The architects relied on Baxall Securities Ltd v Sheard Walshaw Partnership (2002) which supports two principles, either of which could explain its result:

  • Where it is reasonable to expect an occupier to inspect a property before entering into occupation, no duty of care will be owed in respect of any defect that such an inspection should disclose.
  • Where an occupier could reasonably have been expected in his own interests to carry out an inspection that would have revealed the defect, failure to carry out such an inspection, or to carry it out with reasonable skill and care, will break the chain of causation.

The Court of Appeal were not happy with either principle (noting that Baxall may require consideration by the House of Lords) but in any event concluded that neither could be applied in the present case so as to afford a defence to the architects. The fact that a third party becomes aware of a latent defect should not be deemed to make the defect patent to others. Mills & Reeve acted for the defendant architects.