Mr Justice Fraser’s decision in Multiplex Construction Europe Ltd v Bathgate Realisation Civil Engineering Ltd and Others is one of the more curious decisions you will ever read.
Not that I would particularly encourage anyone to read it. The case necessitated some pretty comprehensive and in-depth legal analysis that means the judgment runs to some 206, fairly dense, paragraphs, and an Appendix; I would challenge even the most avid consumer of legal treatises to read the whole thing in one sitting without their eyes glazing over at some point. Helpfully, my colleague Vijay Bange has already produced a very useful summary of the decision and its legal implications here.
However, the density and depth of the judgment does not mean it is without interest; far from it. In fact I suspect this case will prove to be one of the more fascinating legal tangles the Courts will be asked to unravel this year. This article looks at some of the more curious aspects of this dispute, away from the key aspects of the case. Continue reading “Multiplex v Bathgate: Legal Riddles and Unsolvable Problems”
I am an unashamedly massive fan of the Back to the Future film franchise. Yes, even the sequels.
One of my favourite lines from the franchise is spoken at the end of the first film and the beginning of the second. Doc, Marty and Jennifer are about to travel to the distant future (2015, to be precise). When Marty points out there might not be enough road to get up to 88 mph, Doc flips down his brushed aluminium shades and intones: “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” And the DeLorean flies off to the future thanks to an early 21st century hover conversion.
Brings a smile to my face every time
Continue reading “The Digital Age Still Needs Infrastructure”
They say that the house always wins, but as the recent case of Andrew Green -v- Petfre (Gibraltar) Limited t/a Betfred illustrates, even the house can get caught out sometimes.
When lucky punter Andrew Green won over £1.7m following a 5 ½ hour stint on Betfred’s ‘Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven Blackjack’ game in January 2018, he was dismayed to find out a few days later that the company was refusing to pay out, claiming that there was a glitch in the game, and that the house rules stated that, in those circumstances, Betfred were not required to pay. Mr Green sued, and the matter eventually ended up in Court. Following a hearing on 15 October 2020, Mrs Justice Foster DBE granted Mr Green summary judgment and awarded him his winnings.
Continue reading “Luck of the Law: Lessons to be Learned from Green v Petfre”
Adjudication can be a frustrating experience, particularly for those who have been faced with a decision of the adjudicator that is quite obviously (to you) wrong, but nonetheless enforceable.
This situation arises because it has long been accepted that, in adjudication, “the need to have the “right” answer has been subordinated to the need to have an answer quickly…” per Chadwick LJ in Carillion v Devonport Royal Dockyard  EWCA 1358.
The Court’s stance on this issue is born from the original intent of the statutory scheme, which was to provide a means for contractors and subcontractors to address cash-flow problems caused by illegitimate delays or refusals to pay. In order to achieve that, adjudication decisions have to bear the weight of authority, otherwise every adjudication decision would immediately be challenged by the losing party.
The Courts also take into account the fact that the adjudicator is tasked with deciding often very complex and detailed disputes in a very short period of time. Errors in decision-making from time to time are therefore inevitable, but the Courts have determined that that shouldn’t be allowed to undermine the process.
Continue reading “GSEL v Sudlows: Adjudication enforcement, natural justice and challenging a decision”
By Steve Nichol and Tanya Chadha
Cairn Energy’s dispute with the Indian Government has made headlines across the globe. The case serves as a useful reminder to foreign investors of the benefits of using bilateral investment treaties to obtain relief in circumstances where they have been unfairly treated by governments in foreign jurisdictions.
The origins of this dispute lie in a separate, but similar case between Vodafone and the Indian Government, arising out of Vodafone’s purchase of a majority share of a company, Hutchison Whampoa, in 2007. Hutchison owned substantial assets in India, and the Indian Government contended that Vodafone owed capital gains and withholding tax, based on India’s 1961 Income Tax Act. Vodafone disputed the Government’s interpretation of the Act. Continue reading “Cairn Energy v India: A lesson in BIT rights and enforcement”
By Steve Nichol
As my colleague Vijay Bange commented in his blog post on Tuesday, Boris Johnson has announced £5bn of new funding for building and infrastructure projects in the UK.
This sounds like a lot of money, but in real terms it is not anything like enough to restart the economy in the manner suggested by the Government. In the heady days before COVID-19, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced new investment into infrastructure in the UK totaling £600bn between now and 2025. By comparison, £5bn is nothing like what is required to “level up” the economy in the way promised by the Chancellor. In his Dudley address, the Prime Minister confirmed that the £5bn promised was an accelerated release of those funds promised by the Chancellor, but it remains to be seen whether that £600bn will ultimately be released. Continue reading “The Prime Minister’s New Deal: Invest More and Invest Quickly”
On 7 May 2020 the UK Government published its “Guidance on responsible contractual behaviour in the performance and enforcement of contracts impacted by the COVID-19 emergency”. Here are some of the key points arising and our analysis of the same.
It is not mandatory. The Guidance repeatedly stresses that the Government is merely strongly encouraging compliance with the Guidance, rather than suggesting that it is or should be mandatory. However, as with previous policy announcements by the UK Government, it seems likely that public and local authorities, and indeed potentially companies such as Network Rail who are exercising delegated governmental authority, will be compelled to give greater regard and attention to the Guidance than the private sector. Continue reading “COVID-19: Review of the UK Government’s Guidance on Responsible Contractual Behaviour”
By Steve Nichol and Matthew Friedlander
In yesterday’s edition of the Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Robert Jenrick MP (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) relayed tales of how some local authorities have been able to continue essential fire safety work in the COVID-19 era in order to address defective and dangerous cladding in their areas. He then went on to say:
“I would urge any building owner or contractor…as soon as practicable, where it’s safe, to begin work once again.”
If Mr Jenrick envisioned this statement as a call to arms for the industry to remobilise in a flurry of activity, it is likely that he will be disappointed. Continue reading “Remobilising UK Construction needs Guarantees, not Guesswork”
By Steve Nichol and Tanya Chadha
In an industry of seemingly ever-tighter margins across the board, it is perhaps unsurprising that the construction industry has fought to continue through the current coronavirus crisis as much as it has. However, many in the industry have stopped work and shut down sites and, despite the current and perhaps somewhat over-optimistic view from the government that work can continue whilst still complying with social distancing rules, it seems inevitable that all non-essential work will stop very soon.
As work grinds to a halt, it is increasingly clear that in the vast majority of projects, contracts will not provide a straightforward answer to most of the questions that will arise from the shutdown. There will be many grey areas and a significant risk of extensive disputes. To avoid this, or at least limit the scope of those disputes, parties need to be communicating these issues and discussing approaches and solutions now. Continue reading “Coronavirus and Construction in the UK: The Time to Talk Is Now”