Forensic construction is the application of science to decide questions arising from legal disputes over the way in which structures have been built; especially with regard to the type and quality of the structure, materials, and workmanship.
Monday, 7 November 2011
There is clearly
a distinction between a building component wearing out naturally and failure
due to a defect.When seeking insurance
cover it is necessary to be clear which eventualities are to be covered.
school roofs failed in sub-zero temperatures within two or three years of the
expiration of the ten-year warranty period.The contractor had assured his client that the roofs had service lives
of 15-20 years.
The roofing was in pvc sheets, which
shattered in sub-zero temperatures.Pvc
roofing contains plasticizer, as otherwise it would be rigid and lack the
elasticity and plasticity required to accommodate movement without fracture.
Plasticized pvc, to retain its flexibility,
needs stabilisers and inhibitors – otherwise the volatile plasticizers will
gradually be lost.These roofs failed
after the expiration of the warranty period but sooner than expected, due to
gradual plasticizer loss.
The school board sought to recover from their
insurers.The insurers accepted
liability for consequential damage but not for the cost of replacing the
defective roofs themselves, arguing that the loss did not arise from a
fortuitous incident.The insurers contended that the failure was
inevitable at the time of construction, and therefore not covered by the
It was found, as a matter of fact, that
failure was not inevitable – two such roofs having survived.Further, the terms of the policy did not
expressly exclude liability in these circumstances.
 A loss
is ‘fortuitous’ if it happens by chance or accident, occurring unexpectedly or
without known cause.