23 July 2019

Construction projects: Why you should get your documentation in order

This High Court decision serves as a reminder of the importance of getting clear instructions from your client and recording such instructions.

Case: Freeborn & Anor v Marcal [2019] EWHC 454 (TCC)

This case concerned a project to construct a new function room with a home cinema for the owner/occupiers of a North London home. The key issue in this case was whether the architect, Mr. Marcal, had obtained his client’s approval for his design. 

What happened?

  • Mr Marcal and his client had multiple discussions on the design of the cinema box.
  • Mr Marcal’s recommendation was for a glass box supported on four legs.
  • What was actually built, however, was a wooden box with glass panels on six rather than four legs.
  • Mr Marcal claimed that his client had agreed this design.

Judgement

  • The judge described the architect’s drawings and notebooks as a ‘tumble dryer of misinformation.’ There were no minutes of any meetings and no interim valuation for the works. This illustrates the importance of project documentation.
  • The judge found that the architect had redesigned the cinema box without telling his clients; what was constructed had not been approved.
  • The architect was found to be negligent in his failure to both provide a written brief and record the design changes for the cinema box.
  • The judge found that there was no way of rectifying the cinema box and the clients were entitled to demolish it.

Conclusion

This highlights the importance of:

  • A written contract being in place setting out the scope of services;
  • Updating the brief as the project progresses;
  • Keeping up-to-date records of work both undertaken and instructed;
  • Minutes of meetings being taken and circulated to all attendees.