Martlet Homes wins multi-million pound claim against a contractor for defective cladding

Published: 22/07/2022


The TCC has made their first decision on fire safety following Grenfell, awarding in favour of social housing provider Martlet Homes!
Defective fire breaks, overreliance on BBA certification and a lack of BR135 certificate were all key factors for the judge in determining that full remediation was necessary. 

After a nine-day hearing of evidence and submissions in the Technology and Construction Court back in June, the parties in the case of Martlet Homes Limited v Mulalley & Co Limited have received a judgment from HHJ Stephen Davies in favour of Martlet Homes Limited. This is the first substantive claim against a building contractor regarding defective cladding to be awarded by the English High Court since the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 and could be a ground-breaking case which sets a long overdue precedent and provides a clear legal steer!

The final amount is still to be confirmed however, Martlet claimed damages of around £8 million. This is for costs incurred due to alleged design and workmanship breaches by Mulalley as part of a contract to refurbish five tower blocks in Gosport with an EWI (external wall insulation) system manufactured by the German manufacturer Sto.

This case has raised fundamental legal questions about the cause of a claimant’s loss where combustible cladding is replaced and whether a cladding system that uses expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation complies with building regulations when the works were carried out. 


Background

Mulalley undertook works to re-clad the exterior of the five tower blocks in 2005 under a JCT building contract. Mulalley used the Sto Therm Classic K cladding system, comprising EPS insulation and mineral wool fire barriers under a render overcoat, to over-clad the towers. Upon inspection following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, the cladding system was found to contain several defects, including defective fire barriers and fixings and incorrect installation of the EPS panels that contravened the cladding manufacturer’s instructions and the current BBA certificate. 

Martlets claim was that because of these defects, they replaced the cladding system with a non-combustible alternative and implemented a waking watch patrol in the interim to alleviate the possible risks to the residents of the towers. Mulalley argued that Marlet’s decision was taken post-Grenfell, due to concern over the presence of combustible insulation rather than any defects in Mulalley’s installation. On that basis, Mulalley denied liability for the remedial works and waking watch costs.  Marlet refused this denial and highlighted that the combustible insulation material in the cladding did not meet the functional requirements of the building regulation at the time it was installed and was, therefore, a defect which required replacing. 

Court Ruling

The judge awarded Martlet substantial damages for the remedial works it undertook to rectify the defects in the cladding system as well as damages for the considerable costs of the waking watch service implemented as a temporary measure pending the removal and replacement of the cladding.
This ground-breaking case is a significant win for UK building owners facing similar cladding issues and holds broader implications for the construction industry as it offers much-needed guidance on the court’s approach to numerous significant issues affecting the multitude of ongoing cladding disputes and sets a long overdue precedent for future proceedings.

 

Harris Associates has its own in-house façade team comprising technicians, engineers, and project managers.  Having overseen sixty-plus remediation schemes, we advise on compliance matters, carry out investigations, compliance reviews, EWS1 work, and coordinate and deliver PAS 9980 assessments.

For more information, assistance and advice on these latest developments and on any related fire safety or regulatory matter please contact Shaun Harris shaun@harrisassociatesuk.com or call 0203 195 0857.

 

Press Contact: 
Chioma Ibe
Email: chioma@harrisassociatesuk.com
Telephone: 0161 615 3679