- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 15 Oct 2018
Professional indemnity insurance clause in conditions of engagement
'Liability for any negligent failure by Us to carry out Our duties under these Terms shall be limited to such liability as is covered by Our Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy terms... and in no event shall Our liability exceed the fees paid to Us or £1 million whichever is the less'
The Defendants agreed their terms were 'standard terms'. This meant that S 3(2) of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 applied which required an exclusion or limitation of liability to be reasonable. If not reasonable it was unenforceable.
The Defendants claimed the liability cap was reasonable and therefore enforceable because:
- The terms were clear, unambiguous and would have been understood by their client if the client had taken the trouble to read them.
- There was no inequality of bargaining position.
- The Claimants had not received an inducement to accept the terms.
- The Claimants had the time, opportunity and freedom to turn to an alternative project manager.
- Generally commercial parties should be left to apportion risks as they see fit.
The Judge decided the limit was unreasonable and therefore unenforceable. This was because the defendants had contracted to hold £10 million professional indemnity (PI) insurance which exceeded the liability cap. The Judge felt that the claimants had in effect paid for access to £10 million of PI cover, and so it was unreasonable to deny access to that insurance:
'The effect of upholding the limitation clause would be that, although the parties had contracted for the insurance of the risks and (implicitly) for the Trust to pay for that insurance, far the greater part of that insurance would be rendered illusory.'
NB: An additional ruling was made in this case in relation to a project managers duty to ensure a contract is entered into rather than relying on a letter of intent. See: Ampleforth Abbey Trust v Turner & Townsend Project Management.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Ampleforth Abbey Trust v Turner & Townsend Project Management.
- 3D animation for insurance risk analysis.
- Contractors' all-risk insurance.
- Directors and officers insurance.
- Letters of intent.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- Residual value insurance.
- Run-off cover.
 External references
- Unfair Contract Terms Act.
- The full decision: Ampleforth Abbey Trust v Turner & Townsend Project Management.
Featured articles and news
Rebuilding could take 20 to 40 years.
RSHP’s high-rise residential towers win a tall buildings award for excellence.
BSRIA study reveals strong growth in 2018.
Dame Judith Hackitt confirmed as keynote speaker – one year on from the Hackitt Report.
Save £100 on tickets.
Modern slavery in the construction sector.
What to bear in mind when claiming damages in construction.
How do we achieve sustainable clean-water infrastructure for all?
What you should know when appointing an architect.
A brief history plus some new developments.
How computational fluid dynamics (CFD) helps building design.
The Hong Kong Harbour Area Treatment Scheme (HATS).
'Expressions of interest' for construction contracts.