James is a Partner and Head of the Dispute Resolution team and primarily handles commercial…View Profile View all
The Technology and Construction Court (TCC) has recently dismissed a professional negligence claim against a pest control company which had laid rodent bait blocks at the claimant's property.
The TCC considered the approach to take on causation in cases in which different theories are advanced. The TCC said that it is not for the court to "work through each potential cause, identify the least improbable, and then fix that as the cause of the accident or fire". The correct approach was for the court to stand back and see whether the claimant had proved the case on causation on the balance of probabilities. In 2 cases in recent years the Court of Appeal had said that causation in competing theory cases was not established by a process of elimination; the question was whether the court was satisfied that the suggested explanation was more likely than not to be true. It had to be borne in mind, the Court of Appeal had said, that the judge trying the case did not have to come to a conclusion, if he was not satisfied on the balance of probabilities with any of the suggested theories he should dismiss the case.
The TCC decided that the defendant was not negligent or in breach of contract in placing bait blocks in the roof void through holes in which downlighters were fixed. The most likely cause of the fire at the claimant's property was the downlighters themselves, they had incorrect halogen lamps installed. That caused heat to project backwards into the roof void, which ignited insulation material. Of all the possible causes of the fire (the lights, the insulation, the close proximity of roof joists, rodents and other rubbish present), the bait blocks were the least likely to have caused the fire.
Please contact James Staton for further information