If you are considering commencing insolvency proceedings against another party, do ensure that they actually owe you a debt before you do so. This point is so obvious that it barely needs stating. However, Martin v McLaren Construction Ltd serves as an example of how things can go badly wrong if it is not double-checked.
Late last month, judgment was handed down in Network Rail Infrastructure v ABC Electrification Ltd. A decision of Joanna Smith QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court in the TCC, Network Rail is of interest not only as an example of meticulous contractual analysis, but as a case that highlights the manner in … Continue reading A natural and ordinary default: Network Rail v ABC
It is common practice for parties in the construction industry to undertake work under a letter of intent before the contract is formally executed. This practice ensures that design can be undertaken, materials can be procured, the site can be prepared and, ultimately, work can begin notwithstanding ongoing contractual negotiations. However, letters of intent often … Continue reading (Un)signed, sealed, delivered: Anchor 2020 v Midas Construction
With the Court of Appeal’s decision in Bresco Electrical Services Ltd v Michael J Lonsdale (Electrical) Ltd just a few weeks old, it is hardly surprising that people are looking again at the relationship between insolvency law and adjudication, noting that in cases of liquidation where parties have a cross claim, construction law defers to insolvency … Continue reading The primacy of insolvency law over construction law
Now that some dust has settled on the Court of Appeal’s decision in Gosvenor v Aygun, it seems appropriate to consider where we are with fraud and stays in the context of adjudication enforcement.
In Williams Tarr Construction Ltd v Anthony Roylance Ltd and another, the TCC considered a construction company’s breach of contract and breach of warranty claim against an engineer for the defective design of a retaining wall.
Liquidated damages (LD) clauses are a fixture of construction contracts. As we all know, they are a secondary obligations to pay an agreed sum of money, arising upon breach of a primary obligation of the contract. In the case of a construction contract, this will invariably be in the event of delay: the failure to … Continue reading After Makdessi and GPP, the question is, are your LDs commercially viable?
As construction lawyers, most of us have had experience with claims concerning the financial loss and/or damage to property arising from a negligent survey of a house. The facts of such cases tend to follow a pattern: Prospective purchasers instruct a surveyor to produce a report before deciding whether to buy a particular property. The … Continue reading What’s the damage? Revisiting the correct measure of loss in negligent surveyor cases
In the wake of the Carillion insolvency, many sub-contractors are likely to be investigating their rights to terminate their contracts with a now defunct main contractor. Looking for a clean break, they may be tempted by the explicit termination rights that standard form building contracts often contain, and that may be deployed in the event … Continue reading Losing out on loss of bargain when terminating in reliance upon contractual rights
Since at least medieval times, philosophers have struggled with what has become known as the “omnipotence paradox“: “If God is all powerful, can s/he create a stone so heavy s/he cannot lift it?” Thomas Aquinas and Rene Descartes, among others, would no doubt be relieved to know that the English Supreme Court has now resolved … Continue reading Can God create a stone s/he cannot lift?
Two recent cases, one in the Court of Appeal, the other in the Supreme Court, have created significant uncertainty around the acceptability of email service. It seems that there may now be a disparity between the CPR and the Party Wall Act 1996, despite the similarities in the wording of the relevant provisions for the … Continue reading Are you being served (electronically)? Email service under the CPR and the Party Wall Act 1996
One of the fears relating to adjudication is that a referring party will attempt to achieve success by grinding the responding party down through serial adjudications until it achieves the result it wants or the responding party gives in. In Benfield Construction Ltd v Trudson (Hatton) Ltd, Coulson J issued a clear warning that such … Continue reading Bring it on… bring it all on! The risky strategy of leaving over arguments for another day in serial adjudications
Staff turnover in the construction industry can be particularly high and finding the right person to give evidence on all issues in a case can sometimes be difficult. Parties are often suspicious when they know there is someone who should be able to give evidence for their opponent, but whom their opponent does not plan … Continue reading When silence is deafening: adverse inferences in relation to absent witnesses
A plethora of issues were raised, and disposed of, by Fraser J’s recently handed-down judgment in Riva Properties and others v Foster + Partners Ltd, the most awkwardly entertaining one being the sense of pantomime arising from the court’s clear disapproval of the architect’s behaviour, which was described at various stages as “grubby”, “disingenuous” and “wholly … Continue reading Contributory negligence and construction contracts
Much has been written about the court’s discretion to grant relief from sanctions pursuant to CPR 3.9 over recent years, due to the re-formulation of the rule in April 2013 and the landmark Court of Appeal decision in Mitchell v News Group Newspapers Ltd. The strictness of the approach in Mitchell led to an outcry … Continue reading Ten-day delay in filing cost budget was serious but so what!
In recent years there has been increasing interest as to whether construction professionals need to produce an end design that is fit for purpose or simply to show that they exercised reasonable skill and care. The Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the first instance judgment in MT Hojgaard v Eon (and the first instance decision … Continue reading Revisiting reasonable skill and care: have construction professionals lost Bolam protection without even noticing?
Practical completion is a key concept in any construction project. It has a significant impact on a party’s rights and obligations, and represents a major milestone in the overall project timetable. Under the majority of construction projects, it marks the point at which the clock starts running for the overall transfer of risk from the … Continue reading Issues highlighted by GB Building Ltd v SFS Fire Services Ltd
The evolution of the CPR in the wake of the Jackson reforms included the well-known introduction of the “menu” of disclosure options at CPR 31.5(7). The net effect was to promote, as appropriate and applicable, a movement away from well-established “standard” disclosure to a more tailored approach. With the accompanying provisions of CPR 31 and … Continue reading Disclosure and production in construction cases
Every time we think the courts might have given defendants in adjudication enforcement proceedings slightly more latitude in raising their dissatisfaction with an adjudicator’s decision, the court brings us back down to earth with a bump and reminds us that, in fact, no matter how hard done by our clients feel, they will have to … Continue reading The more things change, the more they stay the same
In Mailbox (Birmingham) Ltd v Galliford Try Construction Ltd, the TCC confirmed the armoured quality of an adjudicator’s decision, despite a valiant jurisdictional challenge. The enforcement action was set against a zigzagging tale of assignment and re-assignment…
The Court of Appeal’s judgment in Carillion Construction Ltd v Emcor Engineering Services Ltd and another is an important decision concerning a standard form construction contract, the JCT Domestic Sub-Contract (known as DOM/2). The court confirmed an earlier TCC decision that delays can only be calculated by extending the period of time allowed for practical completion, not by creating … Continue reading Time waits for no man: an important decision on delays in construction contracts
Kersfield Developments (Bridge Road) Ltd v Bray & Slaughter Ltd is the latest authority in a line of cases providing guidance on interim payments in construction contracts under the Construction Act 1996. While a wide number of arguments were deployed in the case, perhaps the most interesting point for construction practitioners is that it offered the first … Continue reading Paying your fair share: when can an adjudicator decide more than the notified sum must be paid?
As we are all in the process of opening our annual referral notice Christmas presents, I thought you might welcome a brief distraction by considering whether anyone will be able to enforce the pending decision in the New Year. Perhaps surprisingly, 2016 has seen some developments on this front that practitioners need to bear in … Continue reading Is the TCC’s approach to summary judgment in adjudication enforcement changing?
As the incredible rise of our transatlantic wall-building friend sets gently into the twilight of credulity, it provides us with an opportunity to get back to reality with the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (PWA 1996). The PWA 1996 remains something of an unusual beast. For an Act that features so heavily in a construction … Continue reading Time to party (over that wall) like its 1996
The genesis of the new Protocol for Construction and Engineering Disputes, which came into effect today, was widespread concern regarding the front-loading of costs. It is this concern that has led to the introduction of a quicker, less detailed and more proportionate Protocol procedure.
Alexander Nissen QC’s recent decision in Spartafield Ltd v Penten Group Ltd brings a degree of finality to the long-running dispute between these two parties. It comes after multiple adjudications and previous proceedings in the TCC. Back in March, my colleague Ebony Alleyne discussed what was then the most recent judgment, dealing with the enforcement … Continue reading Beware the dangers of uncertainty with letters of intent
On 29 September 2016, at a private low-key ceremony in London, representatives from three of the world’s most powerful nations (France, China and the UK) met in order to sign a historic energy agreement. The goal: to build Britain’s first nuclear power plant in a generation. When completed in 2025 (if all goes to plan), … Continue reading Going nuclear: Britain’s big bet on Hinkley Point
Stephen Furst QC’s judgment in ZVI Construction Co LLC v University of Notre Dame (USA) in England is a recent TCC case that highlights important issues arising from expert determination clauses.
With the Insurance Act 2015 set to come into force within the next two weeks, contractors will be turning their attention towards the new provisions to clarify their legal obligations under policies incepted after 12 August 2016. In anticipation of these significant and wide-ranging reforms to insurance contract law, the courts have begun the task … Continue reading No green light to making exaggerated insurance claims but “gilding the lily” may be okay
At first glance, Carillion Construction Ltd v Woods Bagot Europe Ltd and others appears to be important because it touches on a common issue in delay and disruption claims of how an extension of time is to be awarded. However, on closer inspection the case is not really about delay and disruption. It is merely another … Continue reading Common sense is over-rated
As the deluge of smash and grab adjudications continues to percolate through the construction industry, shrewd contractors are advancing more and more creative legal submissions as a way of reviving interim payment applications that have somewhere gone awry. Twice in the past year, the TCC has been addressed on the issue of whether a contractor can … Continue reading An (e)stopped clock is right twice a day. Is your engineer’s conduct a ticking time bomb?
Carr J’s judgment in J Murphy & Sons Ltd v Beckton Energy Ltd offers a salutary reminder of the dangers that can befall a contractor when dealing with an unfamiliar amended contract. Not getting to grips with the operation of amended clauses, and the interplay between them, can be a trap for the unwary, as J Murphy … Continue reading Know what you are dealing with: lessons learned from Murphy v Beckton
With both the US and London mayoral elections gaining momentum, and leading commentators poised to offer independent research, enlivened views and sage analysis, you really would be forgiven for not having had your eyes trained on recent enforcement action in the TCC. The judgment in Penten Group Ltd v Spartafield Ltd, is therefore one you might have missed (but … Continue reading “What are you referring to…?” The increased latitude required when considering adjudicators’ jurisdiction
It’s just possible that, what with keeping up on the recent spate of adjudication enforcement decisions, and wondering whether Brexit would mean that English clubs can’t compete in Europe, you might have missed the fact that Briggs LJ is in the middle of conducting a comprehensive review of the civil courts structure (and the interim report … Continue reading Is the civil courts structure review the end for the TCC?
As I predicted in my blog post two weeks ago, the TCC has now been addressed on the argument that an out of time payment notice can stand as a valid pay less notice under the provisions of the Construction Act 1996. In Grove Developments Ltd v Balfour Beatty Regional Construction Ltd, Grove sought (in the alternative), a … Continue reading Pay less notices under the Construction Act 1996
Google the decision in Henia Investments Inc v Beck Interiors Ltd and you will find a raft of articles championing the decision as adding yet further weight to the argument that payment applications submitted by the “payee” must be clear and unambiguous. However, what is noticeably absent from the commentary is any discussion regarding the … Continue reading Henia v Beck: time for a rethink?
Since the consequences of failing to serve a valid and timely payment notice or pay less notice can be severe (see ISG Construction Ltd v Seevic College), it perhaps should come as no surprise that in recent cases, there has been increasing attention on the validity of the application for payment because, without this, there … Continue reading The new stomping ground: validity of payment applications
For a number of years it seemed as if the law had gone soft in its old age. It began by telling us that, when construing the terms of a contract, we shouldn’t allow the literal words to mask the true objective intention. As Lord Steyn said (in Sirius International v FAI): “[T]he tyrant Temures … Continue reading It means what it says on the tin: contract interpretation in a post-Arnold v Britton world
Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since Lord Bridge’s discussion of the complex structure theory in Murphy v Brentwood. One might have reasonably expected that in the years that have passed, the position of the complex structure theory in English tort law would have finally been settled upon. However, this has not been … Continue reading The current status of the complex structure theory
The Insurance Act 2015, which does not come into force until August 2016, changes the way in which insurance is conducted. The delay in commencement of the Act is intended, at least in part, to give insurers time to change their policy wording and procedures. It is likely that some of the new policy wordings … Continue reading “Fair presentation of risk” and the Insurance Act 2015: what does it mean for the construction industry?
The Court of Appeal (in Graves v Brouwer) has taken the opportunity to re-visit the vexed question of how you should go about proving causation where there are a series of possible causes and, perhaps more importantly, how you shouldn’t do it. Anyone faced with a fire claim would do well to take heed. The … Continue reading Avoiding a blind alley: proving causation in an uncertain world