‘In November 2014, a 23 storey mixed-use building in Docklands, Melbourne (the Lacrosse Building) caught fire’.  In Owners Corporation No.1 of PS613436T v LU Simon Builders Pty Ltd (Building and Property) [2019] VCAT 286, the builders were found liable to the owners, but they were able to shift their liability to the fire engineer (39%), the building surveyor (33%), the architect (25%) and the person who ignited the fire with a cigarette butt (3%; but with no order requiring him to pay, the builders will have to cover that amount).

Rather than attempt to explain the decision myself, I refer readers to the analysis of the legal issues and outcome by Mills Oakely, solicitors, which you can read here.

No doubt this is only the first step in defining the liability and obligations of those in the building industries.  Mills Oakely say:

An appeal is highly likely and the decision is not binding on Courts in other jurisdictions. Caution must also be taken given the specific facts and contractual clauses that were pertinent to the finding.  Nonetheless, the case, and particularly the underlying rationale for the decision, has wide-ranging implications for industry professionals.  It presents a first look by the judiciary into a problem that is far more widespread than the Lacrosse Building and presents the best available guidance at this stage as to how these matters may well play out for owners seeking recovery of rectification costs, and for the potential liability of building professionals (and their insurers).