Kajima embroiled in £13m fire-safety court claim

Kajima Construction faces a multimillion-pound court battle over alleged fire-safety defects on a hospital PFI project, after failing in an attempt to get parts of the claim against it thrown out.

In 2018, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust was forced to abandon its Kajima-built Hadfield Wing at Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital after fire chiefs concluded it posed an “excessive risk”.

The trust is suing the PFI project operator, Hadfield, for £13m in compensation. It had sought to sue Kajima, but later dropped its case against the contractor. However, Hadfield has dragged Kajima back into the case, bringing a ‘Part 20’ case against the builder, which it says is liable for defects.

Kajima is one of Japan’s largest construction and development groups, turning over £14.3bn in 2021. It has undertaken 45 projects in the UK over more than two decades, according to its website.

The full case is set to be heard in October, but on 22 March a judge at the Technology and Construction Court rejected an application by Kajima to give a summary judgment on four issues on which it said the trust had no prospect of success.

The judge, Mrs Justice O’Farrell, said there would be no advantage to her ruling before the full trial on Kajima’s argument that Hadfield’s claims were not counted as a “dispute” under contractual terms and were brought too late.

The judge also rejected Kajima’s fourth ground – that it was not liable because defects were a result of workmanship and materials rather than design.

O’Farrell added that Kajima’s common-law duty of care – to “take reasonable care in the performance of its obligations” – was “framed by the contractual nexus or lack of contractual nexus between the parties, together with the wider factual and contractual arrangements”.

The contracts to build the wing between the trust and Hadfield, and between Hadfield and Kajima, were signed in 2004.

The three-storey building, designed by architect Sheppard Robson, has three separate blocks around a central atrium housing medical wards for elderly patients.

The building features timber cladding and is connected to a pre-existing building via a bridge at second-storey level. Practical completion of the project was achieved in 2007, when the building also opened.

During 2017 and 2018, the trust identified potential defects in the fire compartmentation and other fire-protection works in the Hadfield Wing.

In November 2018, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service issued a prohibition notice under Article 31 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, informing the trust that, in its opinion, the Hadfield Wing constituted an excessive risk to persons in case of fire.

After remedial work was carried out, the building reopened to patients in 2021.

Leave a comment