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The Scottish Court of Session, Inner House upheld a first instance decision that a lead consultant was not liable for work carried out by third party consultants appointed directly by a local authority. Jonathan Spencer (Managing Associate) and David Fitzpatrick (Associate) of Simmons & Simmons consider the ruling.
Midlothian Council v Bracewell Stirling Architects  CSIH 21
While this is a Scottish decision (and is, therefore, only persuasive rather than legally binding in England and Wales), it reinforces that when presented with competing contractual interpretations, the UK courts will consider the broader nexus of
the parties’ relationship to arrive at a conclusion.
On appeal, the court agreed with the decision at first instance that to hold Bracewell liable for a breach of contract by any of the other consultants would be a ‘striking departure from ordinary legal principle’ and ‘would
not accord with usual commercial practice’.The court acknowledged that as Bracewell had been appointed as lead consultant, it was responsible for the overall co-ordination of the design works—however, this was not to be construed as an acceptance of liability for anything that might
ultimately go wrong with the design, no matter its cause.
Court: Court of Session, Inner House
Judges: Lords Carloway, Menzies and Drummond Young
Date of judgment: 27 March 2018
Free trials are only available to individuals based in the UK
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Jonathan is a Partner at Simmons & Simmons. He specialises in defending professional indemnity claims against construction professionals (including architects, engineers, and surveyors) and major contractors. He also regularly advises on complex, high value coverage disputes for London market insurers.
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