2 Entertain Video Ltd v Sony DADC Europe Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Technology and Construction Court)
JudgeMrs Justice O'Farrell DBE,Mrs Justice O'Farrell
Judgment Date24 Apr 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] EWHC 972 (TCC)
Docket NumberCase No: HT-2017-000219

[2020] EWHC 972 (TCC)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

BUSINESS AND PROPERTY COURTS OF ENGLAND AND WALES

TECHNOLOGY AND CONSTRUCTION COURT (QBD)

Rolls Building

London, EC4A 1NL

Before:

Mrs Justice O'Farrell DBE

Case No: HT-2017-000219

Between:
(1) 2 Entertain Video Limited
(2) BBC Studios Distribution Limited (formerly known as BBC Worldwide Limited)
(3) Demon Music Group Limited
Claimants
and
Sony DADC Europe Limited
Defendant

Neil Moody QC & Daniel Crowley (instructed by Ince Gordon Dadds LLP) for the Claimants

Ben Quiney QC & Caroline McColgan (instructed by DAC Beachcroft LLP) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: 8 th, 9 th, 10 th 11 th 15 th, 16 th, 17 th, 18 th, 22 nd, 24 th, 25 th, 31 st July 2019

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

Mrs Justice O'Farrell DBE Mrs Justice O'Farrell
1

On the night of Monday 8 August 2011, during the rioting and violent civil disorder that occurred across London and other cities following the shooting of Mark Duggan, a distribution warehouse in the Innova Business and Science Park, Solar Way, Enfield was attacked by a group of young men. They gained access to the warehouse by breaking through a fire door or glazed panels in the south-west corner of the building. Having looted some of the goods, they started a fire by throwing two petrol bombs inside the building and made their escape. The warehouse burned for ten days, causing the total destruction of the building, plant, equipment and stock.

2

The warehouse was owned and occupied by the defendant (“Sony”), a company providing logistics services, including warehouse storage and distribution of home entertainment media.

3

The claimants publish, market and sell pre-recorded Blu-ray discs, DVDs, CDs and other home entertainment media. The first claimant (“2E”) is a subsidiary of BBC Studios Limited, the main commercial entity within the British Broadcasting Group (“the BBC”) and is responsible for the BBC's video catalogue and new release stock. The second claimant (“BBC Studios”) is responsible for BBC Children's video titles. The third claimant (“Demon”) is owned by 2E and is responsible for CDs.

4

By a logistics services agreement dated 13 May 2011 (“the Logistics Contract”) made between 2E and Sony, Sony agreed to provide logistics services for 2E and the other claimants, including storage and distribution facilities at the warehouse.

5

At the time of the fire, 2E had stock, with a sales value of approximately £40 million, stored at the warehouse.

6

Sony's insurers paid 2E the sum of £8,270,573.37 in respect of the loss of the stock.

7

On 4 August 2017, these proceedings were issued by the claimants, seeking damages for other losses suffered.

8

2E's case is that it is entitled to recover against Sony the loss of profits, business interruption costs and increased cost of working, suffered as a result of the fire, by way of an indemnity under the Logistics Contract or as damages on one or more of the following grounds:

i) in breach of the Logistics Contract, Sony failed to keep the goods secure at the warehouse until delivery;

ii) in breach of the Logistics Contract, Sony failed to indemnify 2E against its losses;

iii) in breach of its common law duty as bailee of the stock in the warehouse, Sony failed to take reasonable care to keep the goods secure and protect them against arson or other destruction;

iv) Sony converted the goods by allowing them to be lost or destroyed;

v) in breach of the Logistics Contract and/or its common law duty in tort, Sony failed to perform the logistics services with due care and skill; it failed to take adequate steps to assess the risk and implement appropriate measures against the risk of intruders and/or fire:

a) there was poor security: the south-west corner was a weak point because there was a door that could be easily overcome and there was no continuous perimeter fence;

b) there were inadequate fire precautions for the warehouse: the building was not divided into compartments and there were no sprinklers to prevent the spread of fire.

9

Although initially 2E claimed damages of £7.45 million, it is now accepted that clause 10.4 of the Logistics Contract is an effective contractual limitation clause and damages are limited to £5 million.

10

Sony disputes the claim on the following grounds:

i) Sony took appropriate advice, and implemented reasonable and proportionate security and fire protection measures at the warehouse;

ii) The riot causing the fire and destruction of the warehouse and its contents was unforeseeable; it could not have been prevented by reasonable measures and amounted to force majeure;

iii) the Logistics Contract limits any liability to the replacement manufacturing value of the goods;

iv) the Logistics Contract excludes liability for consequential losses;

v) liability under or for breach of the Logistics Contract is subject to an overall cap of £5 million, which sum has been exceeded by the insurance payments made to 2E;

vi) the claims are statute-barred for limitation.

Background

11

The warehouse was constructed in about 2000–2001 on a site in Innova Park, a warehouse and business industrial park located a few miles outside Enfield town centre, between Enfield and Waltham Abbey, just off junction 25 of the M25 motorway.

12

The main building was constructed as a large, open plan distribution warehouse with an adjacent two-storey ancillary office building. A two-tier mezzanine, taken from other premises, was installed in the south-east corner of the warehouse. The lower level was used for packing, the middle level was used for bulk pallet storage and the upper level was used for storage. The middle and upper levels were accessible by forklift trucks or independently standing structural steel staircases.

13

Initially, the warehouse was occupied by Deluxe Media Services (“Deluxe”). In about 2002 two-tier shelving was installed at the north end of the warehouse. A single tier mezzanine platform was installed in the north-east corner of the warehouse abutting the two-tier shelving. High bay racking was fitted along the west side of the warehouse.

14

In 2006 Sony acquired Deluxe and took over leasehold ownership and occupation of the warehouse.

15

In 2009 further internal changes were made. The single tier mezzanine platform in the north-east was extended and a larger, single tier raised mezzanine platform was added in the centre of the warehouse. The effect of these changes was to provide additional storage racking, additional working space and a platform on which an additional conveyor system was installed to facilitate increased automation.

16

The warehouse stored mainly CDs and DVDs.

17

In addition to its use as a storage facility, the warehouse was an automated distribution centre. An automated packing and dispatch system was installed, which could handle 2,000 parcels per hour. A radio frequency picking system was used whereby hand-held scanning devices were used to scan products and location codes, which were recorded on the warehouse management system (“the DCMS”). Boxes which had to be filled with a mix of orders were directed automatically to the appropriate locations in the warehouse where waiting “pickers” would locate the relevant items, place them into the boxes and send them on to the next required location.

18

Approximately 130 people were employed at the warehouse and there were a further 100 agency staff.

The Logistics Contract

19

On 13 May 2011 2E entered into the Logistics Contract with Sony for the provision of logistics services for claimants' Blu-Ray, DVD and CD business for a term of four years from 1 May 2008 until 30 April 2012 (subject to any earlier termination in accordance with the agreed terms).

20

Clause 1.1 contains the following definitions:

““Client's Goods” means any Units which the Client has the right to supply in the Territory and which are to be or have been supplied to the Client's Customers on behalf of the Client in accordance with this Agreement (including without limitation any “2 Entertain” “Demon Music Group” and other specially branded Units).

“Client's Materials” means all items supplied by or on behalf of the Client to the Logistics Services Provider for the purpose of processing the Client's Goods.

“Logistics Services” means any of the services more particularly described in the Service Level Agreements to be carried out by or on behalf the Logistics Services Provider for the Client (which shall include by way of example and without limitation, being responsible to the extent expressly set out in this Agreement, for warehousing, stock loss, damage, insurance, storage, pick, pack and ship, invoicing, cash collection and returns processing in relation to the Client's Goods and the Client's Materials).

“Unit” means Blu-Rays, DVDs and CDs and any other similar home entertainment media now known or hereafter devised intended for final sale or supply to a domestic consumer and, where the context so admits, associated point of sale material …”

21

The Service Level Agreements set out in detail the logistics services to be provided by Sony. Sony was responsible for receiving goods from the manufacturer and storing them in the warehouse. Sony's operational services included processing orders, deliveries and returns from customers, and stock management (including inventories and records of stock). There were agreed timescales for deliveries (including new release orders). Sony's performance was judged against key performance indicators...

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    ...the words used, both in written and in spoken form, which, as summarised by O'Farrell J in Entertain Video Ltd v Sony DADC Europe Ltd [2020] EWHC 972 (TCC) at [221] in relation to written contracts, are as follows: “When interpreting a written contract, the court's task is to ascertain the......
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    ...answering this question. These, as recently and conveniently summarised by O'Farrell J in Entertain Video Ltd v Sony DADC Europe Ltd [2020] EWHC 972 (TCC) at [221], are as follows: “When interpreting a written contract, the court's task is to ascertain the objective meaning of the language......
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