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Barclays Bank plc v Fairclough Building Ltd (No.1) [1995] Q.B. 214

Contract law – Breach of contract – Contributory negligence

Facts

B employed F to clean a roof which was made of corrugated sheets. F did not take any safety precautions when cleaning. The premises were contaminated with asbestos and needed extensive work to repair the damage. B brought an action in damages for the cost of the repair work on the basis of F breaching contractual terms. F argued that B had contributed to the negligence as B had not supervised F during the cleaning. B counter-argued that their claim was brought under contract law and therefore could not trigger a negligence claim under tort law. The trial judge held that F was at fault but that there was an implied duty to take reasonable care and therefore the defence of contributory negligence could be successful. The trial judge found that B was 40% at fault and that damages would be owed as per the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945, section 1 and section 4. B appealed this decision.

Issue

The issue for the court was whether the contractual agreement between the parties could extend into tort law. If so, F would be able to raise the defence of contributory negligence which would limit the liability for contaminating the building during the process of cleaning the roofs.

Held

The appeal of the bank was allowed and therefore F’s defence of contributory negligence was rejected. It was held that in circumstances where the defendant is in breach of a strict contractual clause, damages could not be reduced on the basis of contributory negligence.


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