An adjudicator can deal with only one dispute at a time. If more than one dispute is referred simultaneously, the adjudicator has no jurisdiction. There are few cases in which disputing jurisdiction on this basis has succeeded; the most frequently heard argument is that there is more than one contract. However, deciding such a challenge has been made harder by the repeal of Section 107 of the Construction Act, which required construction contracts to be in writing, subject to adjudication.
In RCS Contractors Ltd v Conway (2017 EWHC 715) one party claimed there was one oral contract for works on three sites and the other party unsuccessfully claimed that there were three. Justice Coulson noted that, because Section 107 has been "unthinkingly repealed", adjudicators must deal with entirely oral contracts and all of the uncertainty and contention that they can involve. He also noted that, in such cases, even if an adjudicator finds an oral contract, the responding party is likely to obtain permission to defend the claim on enforcement, because only rarely will a disputed oral agreement be the subject of a successful summary judgment application. In this case, the result of the repeal of Section 107 was a 16-month process and large costs incurred. This, Coulson said, was the opposite of the quick and cheap dispute resolution service that adjudication was intended for.
For further information on this topic please contact Chris Fellowes at Mayer Brown International LLP by telephone (+44 20 3130 3000) or email ([email protected]). The Mayer Brown International LLP website can be accessed at www.mayerbrown.com.