Construction colleague Mike Plews has digested and summarised the high profile LSE glass failure case. People may remember stories about the spontaneous collapse of glass panes at 125 Old Broad Street. The building owner sued its contractor and won. At issue was whether various obligations relating to specifying and treating the glass were consistent or inconsistent with each other.
The take away for me, as a non-construction development lawyer, is the importance of consistency between all the component parts of a contract or set of contracts. These documents and their annexures quickly proliferate and have multiple authors. It apparently did not happen here, but it is easy to see how in theory negotiated clauses in the main part of a development agreement or building contract could cut across parts of the spec and drawings that the clients consider to fairly assign responsibility and set out what is to be built. it is also relatively common in the housing development sector to find legal obligations that pop up in the middle of specifications and still have a contractual effect.
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The decision of the Court is helpful in how obligations within a contract will be interpreted in the absence of an express hierarchy. Fortunately for the Employer, the obligations were not inconsistent and they did not modify or exclude the apparent meaning of another provision or provisions. Good reason will be required before the Court holds that one clause is effective to the exclusion of the other.