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Factory Explosion Test Case Goes to Trial

In May 2004, there was an explosion at the Stockline plastics factory in Glasgow following a gas leak which killed 9 and saw 45 others injured. One of the injured workers sued the owners and occupiers of the factory and was awarded £175,000 plus expenses.

In Scotland, it is possible for parties who have had a court award against them to seek recover all or part of that sum from another party they consider to be liable for the accident. The owners of Stockline took the view that the explosion was at least partly caused by Johnston Oils, their gas provider, on the basis that they had or ought to have specialist knowledge of risks associated with gas-transporting equipment, even though they hadn’t installed it.

Stockline’s owners’ case is that Johnston Oils had a duty to both warn them of the need to investigate the underground gas pipe and to advise them of risks associated with a gas pipe in an unventilated space and the risk of gas getting into the building in particular circumstances. In addition, they also say that certain statutory duties were breached.

A legal debate was held when the lawyers acting for Johston Oils argued that no relevant case had been pled by the lawyers acting for Stockline’s owners and that their written case was therefore legally irrelevant.

Following the debate, the Judge held that “the case may give rise to interesting questions of whether it is fair, just and reasonable in the circumstances to impose the duty to advise and warn for which the pursuers (Stockline) argue. A common and accepted practice within the [gas] industry may be a relevant consideration. The pursuers’ case in that respect is suitable for [trial]”

It will be interesting to see how the court ultimately decides this matter. If Stockline are ultimately successful in their argument, the duties that all service providers owe to their clients, particularly where they may have specialist knowledge, may be widened further.

If you would like more information on this matter please contact Lewis McDonald.

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