The developers behind 20 Fenchurch Street, also known as the Walkie Talkie building, could face nuisance claims after the sun’s reflection off the building melted parts of a car.
Jonathan Carrington, senior associate at law firm RPC, pictured, told Post that claims against the building developers, Land Securities and Canary Wharf Group, could be brought to court given the House of Lords has examined a similar case that took place in New Zealand.
He said: "A dazzling glare might give rise to a course of action. However this has not been looked at in detail [in the UK]. The general idea of reflecting sunlight is a nuisance in the sense that it inconveniences others."
Carrington added the House of Lords had considered a case that might constitute precedent for a potential nuisance claims brought against the Walkie Talkie. In Hunter and Others v Canary Wharf Limited, Hunter and others v London Docklands Corporation, neighbours of the Canary Wharf tower claimed the construction of the building was interfering with their television signal.
As part of this case the Lords considered Bank of New Zealand v Greenwood, in which a dazzling glare was thrown onto neighbouring buildings, holding it "too bight for the human eye to bear" but ruled the mere presence of the Canary Wharf building not to be a nuisance.
Carrington said for the Walkie Talkie it would be crucial to establish whether it was foreseeable the building would cause physical damage or nuisance. He explained: "The New Zealand case was all about lights, but we could also talk about heat and consider whether there is something on your property that could produce so much heat it burns something next door, this has never been looked at.
"We know that glass reflects, but it might not be foreseeable that it would cause physical damage. I don't think anyone expected it to melt a car, or shoes or anything but it would certainly be foreseeable that it would create a glare and that inconvenience would probably be enough to create a nuisance.
"[The case of the Walkie Talkie] raises lots of interesting points, even though we are not able to get into many details, and the New Zealand case gives us an opportunity to wonder if there is a claim of nuisance for those affected by the glare, whether it is burning them or inconveniencing them."
Carrington explained local authorities do not have a right to legally challenge the Walkie Talkie as the glare was not caused by artificial light.
He said: "[Authorities] could demand the nuisance is stopped if the nuisance is called by artificial light, as the Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act 1993 specifically says it nuisance should be caused by artificial light. I don't think natural light was considered when they drafted the act but there could be an argument that says this is highly concentrated natural light to the point where it is no longer natural."
According to reports the Walkie Talkie's glare created a 70°C spotlight. Land Securities and Canary Wharf admitted the glare could have a recurring presence throughout September. They said: "The phenomenon is caused by the current elevation of the sun in the sky. It currently lasts for approximately two hours per day, with initial modelling suggesting that it will be present for approximately two to three weeks. [We are] evaluating longer-term solutions to ensure the issue cannot recur in future."
The developers paid £1 000 to the owner of the Jaguar that suffered damage from the glare on 2 September 2013.
Keith Wise, head of major loss at Garwyn said: "This is a very interesting public liability claim involving a building with a big design flaw! Although the designer and the building owners may not think that it is very foreseeable to have sunshine in London, this is clearly not the case and something will need to be done to stop this happening again.
"Although this has turned out to be a relatively low cost claim, there is obviously some potential for a more serious and complex claim in the future. It certainly demonstrates the scope of liability claims that businesses can face."
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