BUILDING DESIGNER – THE STAIRS
Building designer prepared plans for a second story extension which
included a staircase with landings and no window – preliminary drawings only for the purpose of obtaining council permit.
Extension was undertaken; the builder did not use the design, but
substituted his own, which included a winder.
Family staying in the house and early one morning grandmother carrying a baby down the stairs stumbled in the darkness at about the point of the winder; fell and the baby was seriously brain-damaged. Parents sued the grandmother in negligence (failing to switch on the light) and her insurers joined the builder, the staircase manufacturer and building designer, alleging he had failed to design enough risers in drawing the staircase in the first place.
Action to strike out was not successful so the matter proceeded to trial
where the designer was found not to have been negligent. Defence
costs of $190,000 were incurred and indemnity costs order was made!