Public liability in construction—analysis of common law provisions
Public liability in construction—analysis of common law provisions

The following Construction guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Public liability in construction—analysis of common law provisions
  • What are the contractor's potential liabilities?
  • What are the employer's potential liabilities?
  • What are the insurance consequences?

All the standard forms of building contract make specific provision for the liabilities which are at the contractor or employer's risk and which party is to insure those risks.

However, if the building contract is oral, or if the written terms are silent, then the common-law provisions will prevail.

What are the contractor's potential liabilities?

The contractor's liabilities are:

  1. liability in tort to third parties for injury, death or damage to property caused by the contractor's negligence, and

  2. liability to the employer in respect of damage to the works caused by the contractor’s own negligence or for breach of contract

The contractor is not liable to the employer if the works are damaged by any cause other than the contractor’s own negligence or breach of contract. For example, damage caused by fire, flood, theft, etc or damage that was an inevitable result of carrying out the work, would not be at the contractor’s risk.

The contractor's liability for damage to property was limited following the decisions in D and F Estates and Murphy v Brentwood.

The contractor may purport to limit or exclude liability. However, under