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Court claim over retaining wall design responsibility rejected

Attempts to reclaim remedial piling costs for a development Albany Mill in Congleton by Williams Tarr Construction (WTC) has been rejected by judge Eyre in the Technology and Construction Court last week.

WTC had tried to recover the costs from civil engineer Anthony Roylance after its subcontractor Construction Site Services (CSS), which has since gone into insolvency.

The case hinged around whether Roylance was engaged by WTC via CSS to have design responsibility for a gabion basket retaining wall on the site.

The site was being developed for housing in autumn 2010 and the steep sloping nature of the site called for construction of retaining walls. These were originally intended to be constructed using blockwork by Roylance advised CSS that this was not a suitable solution and CSS then worked with Hy-Ten on the gabion solution. However, in court WTC said that Roylance was involved in this decision and design.

During construction a band of running sand was encountered and Roylance was engaged to design a drain to allow the gabion solution to be used.

Eyre says that it is common ground that the retaining wall was defective but that there was no suggestion that the drain was defective.

WTC initially undertook an adjudication process with CSS to reclaim the £300,000 costs it incurred for consultancy services of White Young Green and the subsequent remedial piling work but, while the adjudication found WTC’s favour, CSS had become insolvent by that point.

Roylance said that these new court proceedings by WTC were brought at the end of the limitation period in a bid to find a solvent party to seek compensation from.

Eyre refused to award WTC the £125,000 costs it was seeking from Roylance as he concluded that although Roylance was engaged to undertake design of a drain, he was not engaged to undertake any re-design of the wall or warrant the design.

Nonetheless, Eyre said that if he had found in favour of WTC in this case, the damages awarded would not have been of the level sought by the claimant as it had failed to demonstrate the cost of the delays on the project and to also separate the costs of piling necessary on other parts of the project and costs of piling generated by the retaining wall design failure.


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