Dhamija & anor v Sunningdale Joineries & ors [2010] EWHC 2396 (TCC), C.I.L.L. 2937 is an important decision about quantity surveyors’ duties where it is alleged there are defective works. Mr Justice Coulson confirmed that a quantity surveyor is responsible for quantities, not quality.  

The Claimants brought an action arising out of alleged defects in the design and construction of their home; the action was brought against the building contractor, the architect, and the QS. As against the QS, the Claimants alleged, first, over-valuation; and, secondly, breach of an implied duty only to value work properly executed by the contractor that was not obviously defective (“the defects claim”).  

The QS applied to strike out the defects claim on the basis that, as a matter of law, the QS did not owe the duty alleged.

The judge held that a quantity surveyor’s contract of retainer would include an implied term (in order to give the contract business efficacy) that the QS should act with the reasonable skill and care of QSs of ordinary competence and experience when valuing the works properly executed for the purposes of interim certificates.

However, the judge held that the QS would not owe an implied duty to exclude from his valuations the value of defective works, however manifest and obvious the defects. This was the exclusive responsibility of the architect appointed under the contract. Further, the QS owed no implied duty to report the existence of defects to the architect, however manifest and obvious.

The judge held that the defects claim was “unsustainable”, but dismissed the strike-out application against the Claimants, represented by Jonathan Lewis of 4 Pump Court, and ordered a preliminary issue hearing (with disclosure) to decide whether the QS’s methodology for the valuations fell below the standard expected from a QS of ordinary competence and experience valuing properly executed works.

This is an important decision, not least because it is the first reported decision on the scope of a QS’s duties in connection with defective work since the first instance decision of Sutcliffe v Chippendale & Edmondson [1971] 18 BLR 149, decided 40 years ago. The judge also held that a passage about the effect of that decision in Hudson’s Building and Engineering Contracts, Volume 1 (11th ed, 1995, vol. 1, para 2-230) was incorrect and unsupported by authority.