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A building company is facing up to a damages bill of almost £600,000 after a simple error by one of its employees in failing to extend the hydraulic feet of a mobile crane resulted in an industrial accident that caused extensive damage to equipment and plant and could have triggered an environmental disaster.
The crane’s collapse destroyed two storage tanks belonging to a chemicals company engaged in the environmentally sensitive field of processing waste and chemicals used in the pharmaceutical and other industries. Two other storage tanks in the crane’s path were also badly damaged, along with other equipment.
The building company admitted liability for what happened but put the chemicals company to strict proof of its losses. The former argued that the repair operations which followed the accident had resulted in an enhancement of the latter’s facilities and had in fact given rise to a valuable business opportunity. Renovation works had already been on foot and the building company argued that it should not have to bear the expense of improving the chemical company’s facilities.
However, the High Court found on the evidence that the chemicals company had proved the losses that it claimed on the balance of probabilities. Those losses were incurred either as a direct and foreseeable result of the crane’s collapse or in taking reasonable mitigating steps. The Court awarded damages of £583,445.97, plus interest agreed at £14,607.