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Julian Field successful in recent TCC decision

On 11 April 2017, Coulson J handed down judgment in Leeds Beckett University v Travelers Insurance Company Ltd.

The University had claimed against Travelers under an “all risks” property damage policy in respect of damage to student halls of residence that had been built only 15 years earlier. Serious cracks had appeared in the building overnight. The students had to be evacuated and the building was subsequently demolished. The cause of the damage was catastrophic disintegration of below-ground concrete blockwork which had been turned to a “mush” by the action of flowing ground water and sulphate attack.

The building had been constructed on a site where active springs were present and directly over the line of a pre-existing watercourse. Coulson J held that the circumstances did not constitute a “flood” (as contended by the University) and that given the combination of the design of the building and the site conditions, the damage to the concrete blockwork was inevitable. That took the damage outside the scope of the policy, which provided cover for “accidental damage”, and damage which was inevitable could not be said to be accidental. Coulson J also held that even if the damage was “accidental”, the exclusions in the policy in respect of “gradual deterioration” and “faulty or defective design” operated to exclude cover.

Julian Field acted for the successful Defendant, Travelers Insurance Company Limited.


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