Multiplex v Bathgate: Legal Riddles and Unsolvable Problems

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”

The Digital Age Still Needs Infrastructure

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”

Luck of the Law: Lessons to be Learned from Green v Petfre

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”

GSEL v Sudlows: Adjudication enforcement, natural justice and challenging a decision

Introduction

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 [2005] 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”

Protests, Prosecutions and Pandemics: Will COVID kill HS2?

By Steve Nichol

The directors of HS2 Ltd must be firm believers of the old adage that no news is good news.

It’s no secret that the project has been beset with controversy right from the start – foremost amongst these being the budgetary underestimates that prompted criticisms of both the government’s procurement model for major infrastructure projects and the competence of those at the helm of the delivery company. So, when the Project was hit with a triple-whammy of bad press last week, those embattled directors and their government supporters must have needed it like a hole in the head. Continue reading “Protests, Prosecutions and Pandemics: Will COVID kill HS2?”

Aqua v. Benchmark: How Not to Settle a Dispute

By Steve Nichol and Matthew Friedlander

In its latest offering, “CLC COVID-19 Claims and Disputes in Construction” the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) predicts that disputes related to COVID-19 are set to rise in 2021. While the optimist may hope that parties will continue to or aim to work collaboratively in order to find workable commercial solutions to claims arising from the global pandemic, the realist knows that such disputes are inevitable. Continue reading “Aqua v. Benchmark: How Not to Settle a Dispute”

What Does the Brexit Deal Do for UK Construction?

By Steve Nichol

The final nail in the coffin of Christmas 2020 for me was getting a directive from NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate on the 23rd. So, instead of celebrating Christmas, I packed the missus off to her mother’s and settled down to read the snappily-titled “Trade And Cooperation Agreement Between The European Union And The European Atomic Energy Community, Of The One Part, And The United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland, Of The Other Part”. Otherwise known to you and me as the Brexit Deal. Continue reading “What Does the Brexit Deal Do for UK Construction?”

Wasn’t It Obvious? The Curious Case of ABC v. Network Rail

By Steve Nichol and Matthew Friedlander

At first glance, the Court of Appeal’s recent decision in ABC Electrification Ltd v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd [2020] EWCA Civ 1645 might look like the culmination of an exercise in legal hubris. This was, after all, a case focussed on the meaning of a single word in a contract; moreover, a word – “default” – that most of us in the legal profession might say has a well-established meaning.

And, after several hundred thousand pounds of legal fees no doubt well spent, the Court of Appeal told the world that the word “default” means exactly what we all thought it meant – a failure to fulfil an obligation. Continue reading “Wasn’t It Obvious? The Curious Case of ABC v. Network Rail”

The Prime Minister’s New Deal: Invest More and Invest Quickly

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”

Remobilising UK Construction needs Guarantees, not Guesswork- Part 2

By Steve Nichol and Matthew Friedlander 

Last week we discussed, in light of the encouragement from Robert Jenrick MP (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) for the construction industry to remobilise, the government’s apparent reluctance to provide confidence and clarity for the construction industry in respect of the safe operation of sites.

In the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on 10 May 2020, he re-stated that encouragement for the construction industry, where possible, to return to work. Continue reading “Remobilising UK Construction needs Guarantees, not Guesswork- Part 2”