In this Case Study, we summarise our recent work in recovering significant loss and damages suffered by our client in the building and construction industry as a result of an electrical design firm’s breach of their duty of care.

Our client was appointed to carry out construction works pursuant to a design and construct contract in relation to a property development project (the Project).

Our client engaged a design consultancy (Company B) to provide electrical design works in relation to the Project, which included the determination of the electrical safety clearance of the overhead power lines to the final building envelope, in accordance with Australian Standards.

Company B is an accredited service provider, owned and operated by a qualified electrical engineer with over 10 years of experience. Company B specialises in providing services on this energy network for industrial, commercial and residential developments.

Company B advised our client that the safety clearances of the power lines from the proposed building envelope were sufficient. It later came to our client’s attention, that the design specifications provided by Company B in fact did not comply with the Australian Standards (AS7000), and our client appointed another party to re-calculate the measurements.

Based on the revised measurements, significant rectification works were carried out by our client, causing them to suffer loss and damage.

We wrote to Company B’s solicitors seeking payment of loss and damages exceeding $500,000.

Our client alleged that:

  • the loss and damage was a consequence of Company B’s conduct;
  • it was incumbent on Company B to have working knowledge of Australian Standards and the Building Code of Australia;
  • Company B owed a duty of care to our client – to exercise due care, skill and diligence in the performance of its duties and to ensure that the design complied with Australian codes of practice; and
  • Company B breached its duty of care.

The following points of contention arose:

  • Company B denied that it was engaged by our client to carry out the electrical safety clearances.

Our client asserted that the engagement occurred orally and the relationship between the parties was evidenced by correspondence and invoices issued.

  • Company B asserted that the loss or damage was a result of our client proceeding with construction without the approval of the relevant Energy authority.

Our client submitted that the loss and damage was directly attributed to Company B’s negligence, in that the design specifications that it provided failed to comply with the Australian Standards.

  • Company B averred that the incorrect measurement was due to the Energy authority not confirming the exact type of conductor being used.

Our client asserted that, if the size and/or type of conductor bears any relevance, the specifications would reasonably be expected to fall within Company B’s professional knowledge and expertise. Further, the Energy authority expected that the measurements and calculations would be validated by a person engaged with the capability to undertake such analysis and Company B was engaged for this purpose.

Company B eventually came to the table and made a settlement offer to our client representing a significant portion of the losses claimed., which was accepted by our client.

This case is a good example of being able to resolve disputes without Court intervention by putting your best foot forward.

Birchgrove Legal continues to achieve significant outcomes for our clients in civil matters in various industries. If you are looking for an experienced, highly skilled and pragmatic legal team that pursues civil claims with tenacity and determination, contact us today.

Birchgrove Legal is a boutique Sydney law firm at the cutting edge of innovative approaches to serving clients across its practice areas and industry sectors. Get in touch with one of our authors to discuss your needs further.