Reach for the Sky? – judgment handed down on Sky Central

29 June 2023
By Rob Goodship

Sky UK Limited & Mace Limited v Riverstone Managing Agency Limited & Others [2023] EWHC 1207 (Comm)


The High Court has handed down the hotly anticipated judgment in Sky & Mace v Riverstone, which concerned a claim by Sky and Mace for the cost of remedial works to the roof at Sky Central, Europe’s largest flat timber roof. The sums claimed for the two remedial schemes put before the Court were both in excess of £100m.

Whilst Sky, as principal insured and loss payee under the building contract, has been awarded an indemnity in principle, the quantum of that indemnity is subject to either agreement or, failing that, determination by the Court, given Mr Justice Pelling’s finding that none of the remedial schemes put before the Court sufficiently represented the remedial works necessary to address the damage as at the end of the Period of Insurance. That said, the Judge found that one of the schemes presented by insurers “most closely approximates” to the damage in need of remediation at the end of the Period of Insurance, and has encouraged the parties to agree the quantum of the appropriate temporary works which need to be added to that scheme.


The full judgment is worth a read for all CAR practitioners (and enthusiasts) but the real take aways are:


Whilst Sky is the first court decision anywhere in the world to consider the DE5 defect exclusion, it actually does no more than provide (at paragraph 29) a slightly clearer articulation as, based on the Judge’s findings, he didn’t need to consider what actually constituted an additional cost of any additional improvement works.

The reason for that is because his judgment was premised on one of insurers’ schemes being the most appropriate (in the circumstances) which (unsurprisingly) did not include any improvements to the original design, plan, specification, materials or workmanship.


Sky follows closely after the Court of Appeal’s decision in RFU that was handed down in April (

The Judge followed the reasoning in the first instance decision in RFU which Lord Justice Coulson said was “unassailable” by the Court of Appeal. Here, Mace was found to be a co-insured under the project policy but, as a result of the building contract entered into with Sky, only to Practical Completion (“PC”) and not to expiry of the Maintenance Liability Period (“MLP”) – only Sky had the benefit of that cover.

Mr Justice Pelling rejected Mace’s argument that a distinction should be drawn, and that it therefore benefited from, being a named in the policy (as opposed to falling into a prescribed category) as being “unprincipled and unsupported”. He found that there was “ample authority” that when deciding the scope and extent of the insurance cover available, it was necessary to consider the scope that the contracting insured agreed to procure, and that cover will not generally extend beyond what is contained in that agreement.

Mr Justice Pelling confirmed (at paragraph 58), and in line with the thinking of the majority in Gard Marine, that the effect of this particular contract was that neither Sky nor insurers can recover any pre-PC loss or damage against Mace, but that Mace was required to remediate and has no entitlement to a sum beyond that which was recovered under the policy.

Physical damage

The judge rejected insurers’ definition of physical damage as occurring at a ‘tipping point’ when “structural change of such severity as to require replacement of the affected timber” as being “impermissibly narrow”.

Instead he found that the physical damage occurred once water entered the roof cassettes on the basis that “the entry of moisture into the cassettes during the Period of Insurance is in my view a tangible physical change to the cassette as long as the presence of the water, if left unattended, would affect the structural stability, strength or functionality or useable life of the cassettes during the Period of Insurance or would do so if left unremedied”.

In relation to the timing of the occurrence of damage, this is arguably in line with Tioxide where it was found that damage occurred once the environmental conditions where damage was liable to occur were present.

The articulation in Sky is potentially wider than that though, which is likely to be very helpful for policyholders when there is ambiguity over the timing of the damage occurring, as it permits the earliest possible date on which damage is liable to occur if left unattended, which is frequently a source of dispute, particularly in relation to water ingress claims.

Aggregation/ deductibles

The other major battle ground between Sky/Mace and insurers, and a point that this is increasingly being taken by CAR insurers in relation to modern methods of construction (including cassettes and modular pods), was the applicable number of deductibles which was determined by the number of ‘events’.

Insurers’ position was that the damage to each of the 472 cassettes was an ‘event’, whereas the Claimants said that there was one event, namely the decision not to use a temporary waterproofing system when installing the roof cassettes, which permitted water ingress during construction.

Mr Justice Pelling said that, in this policy, the “single unifying event must be an error or omission in the design plan specification materials or workmanship of the property Insured that has suffered damage as a result of such defect” when a claim was recoverable under DE5.

Applying the unities of time, place and cause, and following Mr Justice Butcher’s finding in Stonegate ( that a decision (or plan) was capable of being an event if it satisfied those unities, the judge agreed with Sky and Mace that there was only one event and, therefore, one deductible was to be applied to Sky’s claim.Appropriate remedial scheme

The claim presented by Sky and Mace was slightly unusual given that the remedial works had not taken place by the time the claim got to trial, which seemingly resulted in the Judge being in some difficulty when determining the appropriate indemnity. Helpfully for policyholders though, Mr Justice Pelling’s instinct in response to assertions that Sky and Mace’s claims had failed as neither of their schemes were ultimately awarded was that it would be “counter intuitive” that an insured which had proved some damage would be left without remedy.

The actual quantum of Sky’s claim remains unresolved, but the judge saw no difficulty in principle with the various schemes being ‘mixed and matched’ in order to identify the appropriate indemnity.


Although the judgment does not delve into the correct interpretation and application of DE5 as perhaps hoped, it does contain a number of helpful nuances in relation to typical coverage issues under CAR policies, which will be helpful to property and contract works policyholders generally.

Rob Goodship is an Associate Partner at Fenchurch Law