'Pop' goes the factory!

Posted: 4th December 2012

The owner of a sweet factory has won a £4 million interim payment of compensation at the High Court after a major fire destroyed the plant. The former Trebor Bassett factory in Pontefract, Yorkshire, burned down in a June 2005 fire which was possibly caused by a single piece of popcorn igniting.

Kraft Foods UK Confectionary Production Limited, which now owns the Trebor Bassett brand, is pursuing fire safety firm ADT Fire and Security Plc. for very substantial damages. A fire detection system, which was designed by ADT and installed to protect the popcorn conveyor, failed to operate on the night of the fire.Popcorn

The High Court has already ruled that Kraft is entitled to damages from ADT, subject to a 75 per cent reduction for contributory negligence. At the Technology and Construction Court, Kraft sought a £15 million interim payment on account of the final award of damages. The company argued that, even after taking the 75 per cent reduction into account, it was likely to win about £30 million when the case reaches trial on quantum issues.

However, ADT argued that each aspect of Kraft's claim should be considered individually and, as there was no minimum figure to which the court could be satisfied the claimants are entitled, no interim payment should be ordered.

Mr Justice Coulson said: ‘I consider that, as an irreducible minimum, even on the defendant's analysis of quantum, I can be confident that the sum of £4 million would be recovered by the claimants in this litigation. I would therefore identify that as the sum to be paid on account by way of an interim payment.’