Q&As

How can a party recover for damage caused to its property by construction works undertaken on a neighbouring property by a subcontractor, and should the claim be brought against the neighbour, the main contractor or the subcontractor?

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Published on LexisPSL on 26/08/2016

The following Construction Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • How can a party recover for damage caused to its property by construction works undertaken on a neighbouring property by a subcontractor, and should the claim be brought against the neighbour, the main contractor or the subcontractor?
  • Liability of main contractor and employer

How can a party recover for damage caused to its property by construction works undertaken on a neighbouring property by a subcontractor, and should the claim be brought against the neighbour, the main contractor or the subcontractor?

Liability in tort may arise in a number of different ways in connection with construction operations, for example liability for damage to adjoining/neighbouring land and buildings.

For liability in negligence to be established, four elements must exist:

  1. duty of care

  2. breach of that duty of care

  3. damage (which is caused by the breach)

  4. foreseeability of that damage

For more information see Practice Notes: Key elements to establish a claim in negligence, Negligence in construction and, more generally, subtopic: Tort for construction lawyers.

For practical purposes, the test of whether a duty arises is (in effect) whether the harm in question was reasonably foreseeable (Murphy v Brentwood) in accordance with the principles articulated in the speech of Lord Atkin in Donoghue v Stevenson.

Where the loss arises out of physical damage to property, and this is a direct consequence of the defendant's conduct, it is likely that a duty of care arises. In Caparo v Dickman the court noted that 'the existence of the nexus between the careless defendant and the injured plaintiff can rarely give rise to any difficulty'.

An action may also arise for breach of statutory duty, for example under health

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