Taken From: http://www.ntegrity.co.uk/

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Grenfell Tower Disaster Sparks Trouble in the Dry Risers Business

Relationships between contractors and subcontractors are a lynchpin of the building industry and, when the latter branch out on their own, bitter disputes can arise. That was certainly so in a High Court case triggered by high local authority demand for dry riser installations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze.

A company that installed dry risers – essentially empty pipes that enable firefighters to pump water to the upper floors of high-rise buildings – was suspicious that one of its principal subcontractors had engaged in a conspiracy with certain of its former employees to divert away local authority contracts following the disaster.

In those circumstances, and without taking legal advice, the subcontractor entered into contractual undertakings which were designed to prevent him disclosing or making use of the company’s confidential information. The company subsequently launched proceedings, alleging that he had breached those undertakings.

In ruling on the matter, the Court found that, after deciding to break away from the company and to provide his services directly to customers, the subcontractor had made unauthorised use of the company’s components in carrying out two dry riser installations. That amounted to theft and the tort of conversion. He was ordered to pay the company £3,690 in damages, that sum representing the value of the stolen components.

In dismissing the company’s breach of contract claim, however, the Court found that the subcontractor had made no illicit use of the company’s confidential information. The relevant information had either come from another source or was already in the public domain, in that it was common knowledge within the industry that local authorities were looking to install a large number of dry risers. The subcontractor’s counterclaim against the company, in respect of over £13,000 in unpaid invoices, was upheld.

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