Expert Duct Clean Limited v Cardamom Curry House Limited (2021)
You act for the Appellant, Expert Duct Clean Limited (EDC). The history of this matter is set out below.
Cardamom Curry House Ltd (CCH) owns and runs an Indian restaurant in Braintree, Essex called the Cardamom Curry House. The restaurant seats up to 80 diners and has had a thriving trade since opening.
The kitchen is located in the basement of the property and contains a charcoal oven and numerous frying machines which produce a lot of grease. The charcoal oven is heated by burning charcoal, which can emit small burning embers that are usually harmless.
The ceiling of the kitchen contains extractor fans which lead to a series of ventilation air ducts, which need to be deep cleaned every 6 months by a specialist cleaning company. As a result, CHH engaged the services of EDC. In order to perform a deep clean, two EDC staff are needed as there is specialist equipment that needs to be held by two people.
On 1 March 2021, Graham and Callum, two of EDC’s duct cleaning staff, were scheduled to come to the restaurant to perform a deep clean. However, Callum, was unwell and could not come to work. Graham carried out the work alone but was unable to do a deep clean. He did a basic clean only, leaving lots of grease in the extractors and ventilation ducts.
A week later, during the busy lunch rush, significant amounts of grease from the extractors and ventilation ducts dripped down onto the kitchen floor. The staff were unaware of the grease, which slid across the floor and over to the charcoal tandoor area. The grease then mixed with pieces of cleaning tissue that the kitchen staff had dropped on the floor. The usual sparks from the charcoal oven spat over the floor, however they ignited the oily tissue which caused a fire in the kitchen. The fire spread through the kitchen and into the building, causing substantial fire damage to the property. No one was injured in the fire.
The trial judge found that EDC were liable in negligence and held that damages for CHH’s property damage was recoverable, applying Re Polemis and Furness, Withy & Co Ltd  3 KB 560 (CA).
The Appellant, EDC, now appeals to the Court of Appeal on the following grounds:
That the damage to CHH’s property was not caused by the Appellant, nor was it foreseeable (and thus too remote). As such, damages to CHH’s property are not recoverable from the Appellant.
The Appellant has already conceded that, if the court holds that the damage to the property was caused by the Appellant, and that it was foreseeable, liability will be established.
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