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SUPERSHEILD V. SIEMENS TECHNOLOGY LTD. FACTS On 9 October 2001 a nut and bolt connection on a float valve failed and water from a storage tank overflowed into the basement of a new office building for Slaughter and May in the City of London. The water caused a flood which led to extensive damage to the electrical equipment in the basement. The water storage tank for the sprinkler system was located in the basement of the premises. It stored water which, in the event of the operation of sprinkler system in the building, would be pumped through the pipework serving the sprinklers. When the level of the water in one part of the tank dropped, a float valve would operate to refill the water tank. This float valve was an industrial version of the ball valve typically found in domestic water supply tanks. The float device is connected to a lever arm which operates the valve lever which turns the water on and off. The lever arm was attached at one end to the float and at the other end to the valve lever. The connection to the float was by two nuts and bolts some centimetres apart. It was one of these connections which failed in the following circumstances, causing water to overflow. When a sprinkler pump operates it causes water to be drawn from and returned to the tank. In doing so, the float causes the valve to operate. In this case when one of two float valves operated in this way a nut and bolt connection failed and the bolt fell out. This meant that the valve was in the open position letting water into the tank. Without any fixed connection to the float at the end of the lever arm, the valve did not shut down when the tank reached the required level but continued to fill up. The water from the tank overflowed into a bunded area which contained a 600 mm high wall designed to retain any overflowing water. There were drains in the tank room floor within the bunded area but these became blocked or partially blocked by packaging, insulating or other material on the tank room floor. Water then overflowed the bund, passed over the door threshold to outside the tank room. The water reached electrical equipment in the basement which then suffered substantial damage. Argument of the Defendants Mr Cannon submitted that this was a wrong approach. It was not a matter of imputing knowledge of the existence of the drains in order to reduce what was otherwise recoverable under the first limb of Hadley v Baxendale. Rather, it was a fact that the tank room was designed and constructed with drains, and the usual or natural course of any water which overflowed from the sprinkler tank
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