SpecFinish spoke to David Rintoul, Partner at Hill Dickinson LLP and William Hodges, Associate at Hill Dickinson LLP about responsibility for design typically found in design and build subcontracts for steel framing systems (SFS) and, indeed, more generally in the fit-out and interiors sector, the role of collateral warranties and related issues of professional indemnity (PI) insurance cover and limitations on liability.

Under a design and build project, the main contractor is fully responsible for all aspects of design undertaken by them, including by their supply chain.

The extent of all design obligations and responsibilities in turn passed on by the main contractor to a subcontractor will be set out in the specification and all other documents incorporated into the subcontract, as well as terms of the subcontract itself.

Manufacturers of products (either with or without design responsibility) also commonly form a further link in this chain. Even if the subcontractor places an order of SFS or
other products by way of purchase order only, that purchase amounts to a contract into which, in absence of equivalent express terms agreed, will be implied minimum terms
that the goods are of reasonable quality, reasonably fit for purpose and that the manufacturer has used reasonable skill and care in carrying out any design.

Any breach of these or other contractually agreed standards will mean that the subcontractor has a claim against the manufacturer to recover any losses ultimately recoverable by the main contractor that can be shown to result from that breach.

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