Two adjudications – one adjudicator?

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Willmott Dixon Housing v Newlong Housing Trust [2013] BLR.325

Facts

Newlong was a housing trust which employed Willmott Dixon as contractor on a mixed-use development.  The parties fell out and under the CIC rules, Willmott Dixon asked the CIC to nominate an adjudication in respect of a valuation dispute.  On the same day it also asked the CIC to nominate an adjudicator in respect of alleged wrongful withholding.  The CIC appointed the same adjudicator to do both adjudications. He ordered Newlong to pay £115,000 and £130,000 in the two adjudications.   Newlong refused and the matter went to the High Court.

Held

  1. Willmott Dixon’s defence was that section 108 of the 1996 Act provides for only one dispute to be referred to adjudication.  This meant that only one dispute could be referred to one adjudicator.  The Judge disagreed.
  2. There is nothing in the Act to prevent one adjudicator conducting two adjudications.  Each adjudication can only deal with one dispute.
  3. Newlong further argued in defence that although it had received all the supporting documentation within 7 days of the appointment of the adjudicator it did not actually receive the Referral Notice itself.  The Judge ruled that they had sufficient information to enable them to know the case against them.

Comment

Yet again the courts have demonstrated their determination, as a matter of public policy, to make adjudication Decisions work.  The ruling on service of the Referral Notice was particularly pragmatic.  Generally it is not a good idea to fail to serve the Referral Notice in time, and the Judge reaffirmed that a duty to serve the Referral Notice substantially upon the Respondent within 7 days is a fundamental breach of the terms implied by the statutory Scheme.

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