The comments made by Coulson J in Jacobs UK Ltd v Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP (that relate to a summary judgment application in the Technology and Construction Court) struck a chord with me in relation to adjudication.
In Jacobs, Coulson J made a number of marked references to the:
- Large volume of material to be dealt with in a limited period of time (including ten lever arch files of evidence and seven witness statements in support/in opposition to the application).
- Lavish expenditure of costs (just under £300,000 on the application alone).
- Failure to indicate that the time allotted for dealing with the matter (two hours) was too short or that there was a risk that the hearing would run over (it took up almost three days of court time).
Coulson J was plainly irritated by the parties’ failure to inform the court that the time slot was inadequate, or that pre-reading was required. More often than not, when I am being asked to confirm my availability to act as an adjudicator, I have very little idea on how much involvement may be required. If the parties have experienced representatives, they will have a far better handle on how complex (and potentially time consuming) the dispute is.
While my working environment is suited to the flexibility that adjudication demands, it would be helpful if parties were able, at the outset, to indicate:
- The number of issues to be determined.
- The volume and type of evidence that will be relied on.
- Whether it is necessary for a site visit, meeting or hearing.
While I appreciate it may not always be possible to provide such indications (for example where the responding party has remained silent in response to a claim), this type of information would undoubtedly assist in the management and planning of the process.
Not wasting mine (or a court’s) time will, ultimately, benefit the parties, not just the court or an adjudicator: the dispute will be decided more effectively.