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”

A step too far?

A step too far?

    • Third party consultants, and duty of care in tort.
    • No duty of care owed in tort by a third party design consultant to a contractor with no direct contractual nexus.

Large infrastructure projects are often subject to intricate contractual relationships between the relevant stakeholders, and this will also include collateral warranties to cover any potential gaps in liability to mitigate potential effects of one of the participants in the contractual matrix becoming insolvent. Parties lower down the contractual chain may engage their own designers or consultants to discharge their obligations up the contractual chain. An interesting scenario arose in the recent case Multiplex Construction Europe Ltd v Bathgate Realisations Civil Engineering Ltd (Formerly Dunne building & Civil Engineering Ltd (In administration) (2) BRM Construction LLC (3) Argo Global Syndicate 1200 (2021) , and the two issues that were heard by way of preliminary issue.

The facts:

    • The main contractor sub-contracted certain design works to the sub-contractor.
    • In turn the sub-contractor sub-contracted certain design work to the designer (Second Defendant).
    • There was a requirement pursuant to BS 5975 for certain independent design checks and approvals to be done by an independent third party. For that reason, and to discharge its contractual obligations to the main contractor, the sub-contractor engaged a firm of consulting engineers to do this, and issue the relevant certificates.
    • The contractor alleged that defects issues arose because of design issues.
    • The contractor issued proceedings against the sub-contractor and the designer.
    • Judgment in default was obtained against both.
    • The sub-contractor was in administration. The designer was uninsured. The consultant had gone into liquidation.
    • The contractor pursued the consultants insurers.
    • There were two preliminary issues that were dealt with by His Honour Judge Fraser, sitting in the TCC:

Continue reading “A step too far?”

Climate change vs infrastructure projects- Can they co-exist?

The Guardian on Tuesday 30th March had an interesting article entitled “UK criticised for ignoring Paris climate goals in infrastructure decisions”. In summary, various luminaries, scientists, legal and environmental experts, have written a letter and to come out to say that:

      • The case concerning the expansion of Heathrow Airport, and the decision by the Supreme Court last year, has set a dangerous precedent, in effect allowing national infrastructure projects to go ahead at the expense of the agreed targets set in the Paris Agreement. In particular to hold global heating to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels.
      • The UK Government and the Supreme Court has obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998 (to safeguard the right to life).
      • Courts should be forcing Governments of signatory states to adhere to the commitments of the Paris Agreement.
      • The Cop26 is in the UK this year, and the UK should be championing the Paris Agreement.
      • The plans for new coal mine, new licences being issued for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, scrappage of the Governments main green recovery measure, and the green homes grants for insulation and low carbon heating are concerning developments.

Continue reading “Climate change vs infrastructure projects- Can they co-exist?”

UK Construction & Engineering: Cladding Crisis and Latest Government Intervention

By Vijay Bange

There was considerable interest as to what more the Government will do in its effort to tackle the issue of high rise residential buildings with dangerous cladding, and further measures to help the plight of long leaseholders who are facing significant costs to undertake necessary fire safety remedial works.

On Wednesday 10th February, Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary announced that in addition to the £1.6bn the Government had pledged last year for removal of dangerous cladding, a further £3.5bn will be set aside. Is this enough to fix what is mooted to be a £15bn problem? Continue reading “UK Construction & Engineering: Cladding Crisis and Latest Government Intervention”

UK Construction & Engineering: Safer Construction Materials- A New National Regulator

By Vijay Bange

Following our recent blog concerning the challenges and issues in the construction industry arising post Grenfell and the Dame Hackitt Review, the Government continues with its mission to tackle some root safety concerns. One of the many recommendations made was that more needs to be done to ensure that construction products are robustly tested, certified and labelled, and that there needs to be  a more robust regulatory framework to police this. Furthermore, to ensure that there is greater accountability for those manufacturing and /or selling dangerous building products.

The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced on 19th January 2021[1] the establishment and funding of a national regulator[2] working closely with the Building Safety Regulator and trading standards, and indeed other regulators, whose remit would be to ensure that safer materials are used to build homes. The issue is no longer limited just to dangerous cladding and is more wholesale. This was a scathing, and candid, account of the perceived deficiencies in the industry. Separately, the government has also commissioned a panel of experts to look into the fitness of testing regimes for construction products, and tackling abuse of testing products used for construction, and it is anticipated that this review will report its findings this year. Potentially, this too may result in further changes to the relevant regulations. What is evident is that there is a multi-pronged effort to make changes to implement safety concerns post Grenfell, and implement the measures arising from the Dame Hackitt Review.

Continue reading “UK Construction & Engineering: Safer Construction Materials- A New National Regulator”

UK Construction & Engineering: The cladding catastrophe car crash!

By Vijay Bange and Tanya Chadha

2020 will be forever synonymous with the global pandemic. The end of the year saw the approval of vaccines and with that a hope to an end, or at least the taming, of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst this has dominated the media in 2020, there has been momentum in the press and Parliament about the continuing problem of dangerous cladding.

A summary of the unfolding story board is below.

Continue reading “UK Construction & Engineering: The cladding catastrophe car crash!”

UK Construction & Engineering: Another Lockdown

By Vijay Bange

The New Year has been ushered in by an alarming surge in hospitalisations and sadly a dramatic increase in deaths from the ongoing pandemic. The Government was under increasing pressures to take action. Consequently, the Prime Minister has on 3 January announced another national lockdown, with measures which became law on Wednesday 6th January 2021.

Continue reading “UK Construction & Engineering: Another Lockdown”

Climate change and Construction-revisited

By Vijay Bange

In June 2020 I wrote an article entitled “Climate change- a wind of change for construction?”. In summary this raised the point whether increasing focus on climate change in relation to major infrastructure projects might run counter to economic efforts to counteract the effects of the global pandemic. Whilst I am writing this from a UK perspective, I dare say the issues are equally relevant to other jurisdictions.

The issue of pollution in major cities in the UK has again been highlighted by the tragic death of a child[1] whose family lived near the south circular in Lewisham. In a landmark case, the second coroner’s inquest found that the levels of pollution were above world safe levels, and that air pollution was a material cause of her death. This tragic case will bring to the fore the national debate on pollution and climate change. Continue reading “Climate change and Construction-revisited”

Follow The Money

By Vijay Bange and Tanya Chadha

  • Injunction
  • Constructive trust and / or Quistclose trust.

Deluxe property Holdings Ltd (a company registered under the laws of the British Virgin Islands) v (1) SCL Construction Limited & (2) HMRC [2020] EWHC 2865 (TCC)

Cash flow is the lifeblood of the construction industry.  This phrase, coined by Lord Denning MR, and cited relentlessly in the construction industry still holds true. In times of recession, following the cash and preserving the funds that are in dispute is crucial. There is no point in spending time and money pursuing a dispute to fight over a pot of cash that is at real risk of being dissipated. Continue reading “Follow The Money”

The reluctant party – failure to participate in final arbitration hearing because of inability to find QC

By Vijay Bange

Adjudicators and Arbitrators are occasionally faced with a situation where one of the parties refuses to engage in the process. In such circumstances tribunals are left in a difficult position to ensure fairness and have regard to due process, whilst also giving careful consideration as to whether it is just and appropriate to continue the process. Ultimately, however, the reluctance of one party to engage should not deprive the other of their legal and contractual rights.

A peculiar position came before Mr. Justice Andrew Baker, in Shell Energy Europe Limited and Meta Energia SpA [2020] EWHC 1799. This case concerned the Defendant’s application to set aside a previous order made by Teare J, made under s. 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996, granting the Claimant leave to enforce an award of arbitration dated 4 December 2019. The award in favour of the Claimant was for EUR 19,712,077.20. The seat of the arbitration was London, and it was under the LCIA Rules. The Defendant participated with the arbitration fully until the final stages; however, on 19 September 2019, with a two-day final  hearing set for 25-26 September 2019, the Defendant dismissed its solicitors and counsel, on the basis (according to the CEO) that it was not satisfied with the way the legal team had pursued or presented the defence. The next day, the Defendant retained new solicitors, and the arbitrators granted an adjournment of the final hearing to 8-9 October 2019. Continue reading “The reluctant party – failure to participate in final arbitration hearing because of inability to find QC”