A paper based on the joint second prize entry in the Hudson Prize essay competition 2010 presenting to a meeting of the Society of Construction Law in London on 3rd May 2011
David Johnson looks at the history and usefulness of the Defective Premises Act 1972, against the background of developments of the law of tort in particular in Murphy v Brentwood and subsequent cases. The Act offers a statutory claim for damages for defects in dwellings: the right of action requires neither a contractual link between claimant and defendant nor the need to show a duty of care in negligence between them in relation to 'pure economic loss'. The paper considers the basis of liability and argues for two changes which would make the 1972 Act even more useful - clarifying the basis of liability and extending the present six year post-completion limitation period.
Introduction - The problem - Murphy: attempted solutions - The 'complex structure' theory - Establishing a 'special relationship' - Reactions to Murphy - Enter the Defective Premises Act - The content of the duty - What is a dwelling? - The standard of care required - Strict liability, but with a new defence? - The 1972 Act and limitation of actions - Conclusions.
David Johnson is a Pupil Barrister at Atkin Chambers, Gray's Inn, London.
Text 13 pages.