Mr Alan Robinson
RE: Your Opinions welcomed regarding a Claim being made against me
Firstly, I would applaud your bravery in opening a post on this topic. I am of the opinion this type of thread should be discussed more on this forum. (much more interesting than that 9/11 tosh).
And while I am aware that the only opinion that matters is that of the ‘gentleman in the wig’, my opinion on this issue is:
By your own admission you have accepted that you have dropped a clanger. Your qualification on the drawing stating “discrepancies shall be notified to the Architect” is not a condition of any contract. The qualification can only be viewed as a ‘hold point’, to stop work until a suitable solution is arranged.
Determination of that solution is not within the remit of a Contractor. The Contractor should have stopped work and sought advice from you. For all the Contractor knows, you could have got some new bars bent and supplied them to him free of charge. (You will have to assess if new links would have been less expensive than £1260).
As you mentioned, the most cost effective solution would have been to position the shear links on a slant. Thus I would estimate the extra cost associated with the additional time taken to tie and place a reinforcement cage with links on a slant, and offer that to your client. (Two blokes taking say 1 hour at £30 per hour is only £60). I would suggest that is fair and reasonable, and I think would be supported by a magistrate at a small claims hearing. If you’re feeling really tough, you could then counter claim for the defence of scurrilous claims and reduce the offer by £40 for an hour of your time.
I, also wouldn’t worry much about the claim through the small claims courts until your client actually approaches the court. When your client finds out that he has to pay for the costs of the court case, he will certainly have second thoughts. In the small claims courts, I believe costs are borne by each party. The costs associated with bringing an action against you will far outweigh the £1260 he is wanting from you. You can defend yourself; which will cost you nothing. Your insurance company will also defend you. If you win, that will also cost you nothing and notification to your insurance company will also cost you nothing.
I have to admit, I would be more concerned with the threat to complain to the ISE. I am not too sure how the ISE would view a case like this, but my gut feeling is they would tend to side with “that little old lady with the blue rinse”. The guidance notes on the ISE website gives examples of conduct that may be regarded as breaching the laws of the Institution. Bullet point 2 states “Failing to discharge their duties with care, courtesy, impartiality and fidelity”. What does that mean, if not dropping a clanger?
So in summary, I would tell your client to sling his hook. The decision to dig deeper was not the Contractors decision to make. (what would have happened if that was structurally the wrong decision to make). I would make your client a reasonable offer to refect the additional works associated with tieing links at a slant. I would review the consequences of the additional mass of concrete wrt crack widths, loading etc and tell him that you are not responsible for the works as it was not built to your drawings.
But the decision is yours and I know it is a tough one. Best of luck.
I would also be interested to know if there are any lessons learned that you feel able to post on this forum.