In the legal case of Freeborn v De Almeida Marcal, Healys professional negligence solicitors Jerome O’Sullivan and Daniel Winslow represented client Philip Freeborn in trial. As a result, the client succeeded and received £1.5 million in damages.
Freeborn had previously hired architect Daniel Marcal to design a modern floating cinema in the leisure complex of his £7 million London home. However, the final project Freeborn had received did not align with his expectations or what he had agreed to. Freeborn and his wife Christina Goldie claimed they were “shocked” by the unexpected box-like structure.
The primary dispute surrounding the project was regarding the scope of the architect’s retainer and whether the brief was properly prepared, documented and agreed to. Furthermore, there were issues and obscurities relating to the construction, such as the scope of the project manager’s responsibilities including obtaining competitive tenders, timely ordering of components and construction defects. Further concerns highlighted the extent to which the architect, Marcal, had delegated his obligations to specialist contractors. Most importantly, the court found fault regarding the interpretation of the Building Regulations in relation to means of escape from a potential fire.
In March 2019, the case was resolved, with Philip Freeborn and his wife receiving £1.5 million in damages, owed by Daniel Marcel. The judge commented that the demolition of the cinema was ‘reasonable’. He also added that “the claimants not knowing and not agreeing to the design of the cinema room as implemented, and the change from sleek modern design to industrial wonky design, was all as a result of the defendant’s negligence in having no written brief and no consultation with the claimants as that brief changed so dramatically.”
Healys Partner Jerome O’Sullivan commented:
“This case has wide implications for the architectural profession and other professionals working in the construction industry and employers commissioning them.
The judgment demonstrates that an architect must ensure that they enter into a written agreement with their clients that confirms; the scope of the work, what will be the architect’s, client’s and other contractor’s responsibilities; and any subsequent variation in this agreement.
The initial planning brief must be recorded in writing by reference to drawings, sketches, or three-dimensional models and a detailed written description of the design. The brief should show what the final design will achieve in terms of accommodation, costs, level of finish and operational requirements.”