• London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority v Halcrow Gilbert Associates Ltd & Ors

This case came before HHJ Toulmin CMG QC following a fire at a training centre. The LFEPA claimed that since the fire it had not been possible to use the centre for its primary purpose and the training had to be undertaken elsewhere at substantial additional cost. The LFEPA claimed for the costs of repair of the damage caused by the fire, the costs of investigation of the cause of the fire, the replacement of defective ductwork and associated equipment and loss of use based on a 45 month shutdown.

The Judge said that to succeed, the LFEPA must establish that Halcrow design was negligent and that this negligence caused the loss as claimed. In considering the second point, it was necessary to consider not only whether Halcrow's alleged negligence caused the loss but whether the LFEPA suffered a loss for which it should reasonably be compensated. In other words, was it reasonable for the LFEPA to recover the cost of reinstating the property? The Judge in particular had in mind the words of Clarke LJ in the 2001 case of the "Maersk Colombo", who said that:

"Ruxley also supports the proposition that, although what a claimant does with any damages he receives is irrelevant, his intention to reinstate or not to reinstate, while not conclusive, is relevant to the question whether it would be reasonable to reinstate the property…"

The LFEPA claimed that they intended to carry out the reinstatement works but that it was prudent for it to wait and see what damages were awarded before commencing the works. Halcrow put in issue the intention of LFEPA to carry out any remedial work. They said that the LFEPA had taken no steps since the fire more than two years ago to implement any remedial scheme. The Judge commented that there was no documentary or other evidence about the LFEPA's intentions. The court had offered to postpone the trial on quantum. However, on the basis of the evidence, he could not conclude that the LFEPA would carry out any of the remedial schemes. Accordingly, the Judge was satisfied that it would not be reasonable for the LFEPA to carry out remedial works (for which damages were claimed) and in addition, that they had any intention of doing so.