Crystallising Disputes

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L J Paving v Meeres Civil Engineering (2019) BLM, TCC

Facts

L J Paving did some contract work for Meeres in Westfield and submitted its final account.  After extensive negotiations the parties had failed to agree a figure, so L J Paving went to adjudication.  Meeres was ordered to pay an extra £132,000 by the Adjudicator’s Decision.  Meeres refused to pay on the grounds that the Adjudicator lacked jurisdiction as the “dispute” referred to him had never crystallised because Meeres were still asking for more information when the adjudication commenced.

TCC Held:

There was clearly a dispute between the parties between 2 competing versions of the valuation.  The fact that Meeres was still asking questions did not support an argument that there was no disagreement, indeed the fact that the questions were so specific showed that Meeres did have an understanding of the Claimants’ case (and had not accepted it). Meeres lost.

Comment

  1. Only if a claim is “so nebulous and ill-defined that the Respondent cannot sensibly respond to it” will a dispute be held not to have crystallised, once a claim has been submitted which the recipient has not accepted. In general, the fact that the Defendant has failed to pay is sufficient evidence it rejects a claim.  The old stalling tactic of simply demanding more and more information and further and further detail will not work to defeat an adjudication.
  2. The Judge commented that even if the matter had not crystallised, this was not a defence which could be considered in the High Court Enforcement Proceedings, because the Defendant failed to raise it during the adjudication itself. If you have a valid defence to an adjudication claim but fails to raise it with the adjudicator, then generally you will deemed to have waived your right to rely upon that ground of defence.

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