Breach of Duty of Care?

HHJ Keyser QC in the Cardiff District Registry of the TCC has held that the architect was not in breach of his duty of care to his clients and was not professionally negligent. The claimants also failed to establish that they had suffered any loss as a result of the alleged breach.
The claimants had instructed the architect to design and supervise works to what was going to be their home, including converting a detached garage into a “granny annex” and building a new garage and car port.

The scope of works included obtaining the necessary planning permission. Ultimately, the parties fell out, with the claimants alleging the architect had failed to supervise the building works properly and had neglected to design the garage in their preferred style. They alleged this cost more money and reduced the property’s value. In a long and fact-specific judgment, the court rejected those allegations.

At a subsequent hearing, the claimants were ordered to pay “all of” the defendant’s costs on the standard basis (they had conceded they were liable for at least 90%). A claim for indemnity costs was rejected. The defendant’s agreed costs budget was for £91,700, but this was going to be increased to reflect an extended trial (among other things). Consequently, the order for a payment on account was increased from £70,000 to £90,000.

As the original building contract was for some £220,000, and the pleaded differences in costs and value in the region of £20,000 to £30,000 each, this case is a salutary reminder of how the costs of litigation can easily exceed a claim’s value.

Cases: Kellie and another v Wheatley & Lloyd Architects Ltd [2014] EWHC 2212 (TCC) (03 July 2014) and Kellie and another v Wheatley & Lloyd Architects Ltd [2014] EWHC 2886 (TCC) (27 August 2014) (Bailii).

Written by James Naylor

Partner, CG Naylor LLP.