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.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Insurance Cover for Construction?
It is sometimes
not enough merely to see that insurance is in place, it is important also to
know what is covered by that insurance.
An example of inappropriate insurance came to
light when a major building-products manufacturer undertook the role of main
contractor in remedial works to a refurbishment project.Their building system and materials had been
used for the refurbishment work, but performance when finished was flawed.Believing the faults lay in the site work,
not in their products, they undertook to confirm this to the building owner by
They ably set about correcting the
installation.This done, the work
failed.They had created an excellent
test bed for a relatively new product.By minimising workmanship error and having full control over design and
materials, they had ensured there was a full-sized example of their building
system, which was correctly set up and exposed as intended to the
elements.This was a much more robust
way of evaluating the system than the laboratory tests and computer modelling
upon which all had hitherto relied.The
failures were limited and allowed specific flaws in the computer modelling to
be identified, with benefits for the future development and use of the system.
Although the failures following the remedial
works were much less severe than had originally occurred, they were
unacceptable to the building owner who brought a claim against the
manufacturers.They turned to their
insurers.Their insurance covered
product quality and the design of the system – normally supplied under a contract of sale, not a contract for the
supply of services.The insurer stated
that, by taking on the role of main contractor, the manufacturer had extended
their liability beyond the cover the insurers provided.
To carry out the remedial work, they had
engaged a quantity-surveying firm to act both as quantity surveyor and project
manager.It turned out that, although
this firm held professional indemnity insurance, this covered them for quantity
surveying but not for project management.It was through their project-management services that the quantity
surveyors had contracted to control the quality of the works.In dereliction of this duty they had failed
to recognise bad workmanship, which negligence they compounded with commendable
regularly by certifying monthly payments for faulty work.The quantity surveyor’s professional
indemnity insurers firmly stood aside when faced with a claim for negligence in
Following out-of-court settlements and
substantial rejection of the claims against their product insurer and against
the project manager’s professional indemnity insurer, the manufacturers turned
to their parent company, on whose research and development work they relied and
were finally successful in recovering a substantial part of their losses. This
was largely due to being able to claim that the root of the failures which
occurred arose from demonstrable negligence in research and development, for
which risk the parent company was insured.