CONSTRUCTION LAW REVIEW 2016/17
The department looks back at the recent key cases from the world of construction
and considers what might lie in store.
Focused on your needs
01 Construction Law Review 2016/17
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It has been a busy year for Sharpe Pritchard's construction law department. We have had the privilege of being involved in a number of exciting projects and have seen the development and growing success of our specialist adjudication unit, SP Adjudication.
We thought it would be worthwhile to look back at some of the most important cases from the world of construction in the past 15 months, as well as looking at the trends over that period and what is likely to happen going forward.
The last year has seen a number of important cases in the construction industry, including Globe Motors Inc. v TRW Lucas Variety Electric Steering Ltd1, Apcoa Parking (UK) Limited v Crosslands Properties Limited2, Kersfield Developments (Bridge Road) Limited v Bray and Slaughter Limited3 and Lulu Construction Limited v Mulalley & Co Limited4.
As ever, the issue of payment, and in particular payment notices (or more accurately the lack thereof!), has drawn the attention of the Courts.
Within this review we take a look at these cases, and others of note, and also update and comment upon the trends overall within the industry particularly in respect of dispute resolution.
1 Globe Motors Inc. v TRW Lucas Variety Electric Steering Ltd  EWCA Civ 396
2 Apcoa Parking (UK) Limited v Crosslands Properties Limited  CSOH 63
3 Kersfield Developments (Bridge Road) Limited v Bray and Slhter Limited  EWHC 15 (TCC)
4 Lulu Construction Limited v Mulalley & Co Limited  EWHC 1852 (TCC)
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CONSTRUCTION REVIEW 2016/17: CASES 1. ANTI-ORAL VARIATIONS
Two of the three cases summarised below do not involve construction contracts; however, variation clauses in construction contracts are commonplace. The facts are akin to situations where professional teams such as architects and project managers agree to vary a contract (sometimes inadvertently) but subsequently fail to record the variation in writing.
Globe Motors Inc. v TRW Lucas Variety Electric Steering Ltd  EWCA Civ 396 (20 April 2016)
Globe Motors Inc (Globe) had entered into a long-term exclusive supply agreement with TRW Lucas Varity Electric Steering Limited (TRW). The agreement included Article 6.3, which stated:
This Agreement, which includes the Appendices hereto, is the only agreement between the Parties relating to the subject matter hereof. It can only be amended by a written document which (i) specifically refers to the provision of this Agreement to be amended and (ii) is signed by both Parties.
The clause clearly prohibited variations which were not recorded in writing. However, the parties made an oral agreement to vary the contract.
The Court of Appeal was asked to consider the enforceability of the variation clause when it was
apparent that the variation was being performed despite the absence of a written record. Drawing on the decisions in United Bank v Asif 5 and World Online Telecom6 (both from 2002), TRW's argument was that anti-oral variations are necessary to avoid contractual uncertainty. However, Lord Justice Beaston in his obiter comments took the view that "the parties have freedom to agree whatever terms they choose to undertake, and can do so in a document, by word of mouth, or by conduct". The point is that anti-oral variation clauses are not automatically enforceable. The Courts will approach anti-oral variation clauses on a caseby-case basis and their conclusions will turn upon the facts of each oral variation or variation by conduct.
MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd v Rock Advertising Ltd  EWCA Civ 553 (21 June 2016)
Following the decision in Globe, a further case came before the Court which required a decision on the effectiveness of an anti-oral variation clause. Rock Advertising Limited occupied a property and alleged that the contractual provisions on payment had been varied by oral agreement. MWB contended that Rock could not rely upon the oral variation as the agreement contained a clause rendering variations ineffective unless set out in writing.
The Court took the view that an anti-oral variation clause could itself be varied so that not all variations need be in writing.
ZVI Construction v The University of Notre Dame  EWHC 1924 (TCC) (2 August 2016)
The theme of anti-oral variations continued with the ZVI construction case. In this case, the Court tackled the issue of whether the conduct of the parties amounted to a variation and whether this would waive the variation clause in their agreement. The central tenet of the case was whether the claimant had waived any right to object to the expert's jurisdiction in an adjudication.
Similarly to Globe and MWB, the agreement between ZVI Construction and The University of Notre Dame contained an anti-oral variation clause. ZVI argued that it had not acted in a manner that would "modify, alter or waive the terms of the existing agreement". The University of Notre Dame took issue with this point and presented a string of emails to the Court as evidence. It asserted these satisfied the requirements of the clause.
The Court found that the agreement had been varied via the conduct of both parties. The particular point was that the parties had both submitted to the jurisdiction of the expert and in doing so, their actions waived any right of objection under the expert determination clause within the agreement.
The outlook is not entirely gloomy however, as Courts will require strong evidence that both parties intended for their actions or conduct to modify the agreement.
5 United Bank Ltd v Masood Asif  EWCA Civ 456 6 World Online Telecom Ltd (formerly Localtel Ltd) v I-Way Ltd  EWCA Civ 413
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2.EXCLUSION CLAUSES AND INTERACTION WITH OTHER CLAUSES
Apcoa Parking (UK) Limited v Crosslands Properties Limited  CSOH 63 (29 April 2016)
Crosslands Properties Limited (Crosslands) was the owner of a multi-storey car park that was renovated in 2002. Apcoa Parking (UK) Limited (Apcoa) was the occupier of the car park. The multistorey car park was in disrepair after the waterproof coating on the top deck had failed and the concrete had broken down in several locations. The cost of the repairs to the car park was estimated to be between 500,000 and 700,000.
Apcoa occupied the car park under a 25-year lease after the construction work had finished and the case revolved around which party was liable for the repairs. Under the contract, Crosslands was expected
to provide collateral warranties to Apcoa and also to carry out a site inspection prior to issuing a defects certificate to confirm that the works had been completed to a satisfactory standard. The contract gave autonomy to the project manager to decide when it was appropriate to issue a defects certificate. Apcoa considered it necessary for Crosslands to fulfil both obligations before being released from its liabilities and obligations to Apcoa under the building contract.
Crosslands sought to rely upon an exclusion clause. The clause stated that as long as Crosslands satisfied the criteria above, Crosslands would have no liability to Apcoa for any defects after the defects certificate had been issued. However, Apcoa argued that the clause was not intended to provide Crosslands with a safeguard against failing
to fulfil its obligations under the agreement; in particular, there had been no final inspection and Apcoa did not receive the defects certificate until after the issue of these proceedings in 2015. Crosslands also admitted that no final inspection meeting was recorded as ever having taken place.
The Court agreed with Apcoa on the basis that Crosslands had not discharged its liability in accordance with the contract. The Court noted that Apcoa should have been given the opportunity to inspect. The Court decided that it would be unfair to allow Crosslands to benefit from an unfulfilled obligation.
The key lesson from this case is that clauses must not be considered in isolation and the impact of exclusion clauses on other contractual provisions must be examined carefully.
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3. EXTENSIONS OF TIME/CONTRACTUAL INTERPRETATION
Carillion Construction Ltd v Woods Bagot Europe Ltd and others  EWHC 905 (TCC) (28 April 2016) (also referred to as Carillion Construction Ltd v Emcor Engineering Services Ltd)
This case concerned the construction of the High Court's Rolls Building in London. The building contract (JCT standard form building contract with contractor's design) contained typical provisions for the extension of time and liquidated damages in the event of delay, including a clause which allowed the contractor to recover sums for liquidated damages in the event that an extension of time was later granted in relation to that delay.
The works suffered delays at various stages which resulted in the parties entering into two supplemental agreements. In the second supplemental agreement (entered into in July 2011), the parties included a provision setting out that the contractor would not be entitled to any extension of time or loss and/or expense up to the date of that particular supplemental agreement.
Carillion engaged two subcontractors (EMCOR and AECOM) to provide mechanical and electrical services. The sub-contracts did not contain mirror provisions in relation to extensions of time and when Rolls levied liquidated damages against Carillion for delay, a dispute arose between Carillion and EMCOR. EMCOR argued that its sub-contract allowed for extensions of time and that the company was not liable for liquidated damages; and in the alternative, EMCOR and AECOM could not be liable for liquidated damages because Carillion had no liability to Rolls under the further supplemental agreement.
There were two preliminary issues for the Court to consider:
1) Would any extension of time granted to EMCOR be added contiguously onto the already existing contractual date for completion, such that no liabilities would be owed until the expiry of the contractual completion date plus the full length of any extensions of time granted?
2) Did the Supplemental Agreements have the effect of pushing back the contractual completion date under the building contract, such that no damages could be levied against the sub-contractors in relation to any delays before the new, later completion date came and went?
In the Court's view, EMCOR was entitled to an extension of time and would run contiguously. On preliminary issue two, the Court found that the second supplemental agreement did not extinguish Carillion's liability to Rolls for liquidated damages. The Court looked at the natural meaning of the contract before factoring in the commercial considerations.
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Grove Developments Ltd v Balfour Beatty Regional Construction Ltd  EWHC 168 (TCC) (3 February 2016)
Grove Developments Ltd employed Balfour Beatty under the JCT Design and Build 2011 contract to design and build a hotel and serviced apartments. The completion date was 22 July 2015 but the work ran behind schedule which gave rise to a dispute about how payment would be managed after July 2015. The parties had agreed to some bespoke amendments to the JCT around payment and agreed that there would be 23 contractual payments prior to July 2015.
From May 2015, the parties entered into discussions about the terms of any interim payments which would be required beyond July 2015 (as it had become apparent that the project would not complete on time) but did not reach an agreement. On 21 August 2015, Balfour Beatty issued an application for a further interim payment (IA24). On 15 September 2015, Grove Developments Ltd served a payment certificate and a pay less notice and paid Balfour Beatty the pay less notice amount on 18 September 2015. Balfour Beatty argued that Grove Developments Ltd's documents were invalid and claimed to be entitled to nearly 23 million or, alternatively, 2 million.
Balfour Beatty commenced adjudication proceedings and the adjudicator concluded that they were owed 2 million. Grove Developments Ltd commenced a part 8 claim seeking declaratory relief in respect of two issues:
i) whether Balfour Beatty had a contractual right to make, and be paid in respect of, IA24 or any subsequent application; and
ii)what was the final date for
payment and did Grove Developments Ltd serve a valid pay less notice?
The TCC held that Balfour Beatty had no contractual right to make an IA24 or any subsequent application. The parties had agreed a schedule of 23 payments and were in discussions about a payment mechanism for the period of delay. The implied terms of section 109(3) of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 did not apply to this contract precisely because interim payment dates had been agreed and this overrides any attempt by the contractor to receive further interim payments beyond the final date if no provision for delay has been considered.
Jawaby Property Investment Ltd v The Interiors Group Ltd  EWHC 557 (TCC)7 (16 March 2016)
A contract for refurbishment works based on the JCT 2011 Design and Build contract between Tekxel Limited ("Tekxel") and The Interiors Group Limited ("TIG") was novated to Jawaby Property Investment Ltd ("JPIL"). JPIL paid 1 million into an escrow agreement upon novation of the contract so that TIG had a mechanism to recover monies owed to it in the event that JPIL failed to pay.
The case before the Court was whether the payment obligations of the parties had been satisfied and whether payment from an escrow account was triggered.
At the time of this case, TIG was subject to a winding-up petition and urgently needed access to funds to pay its sub-contractors. JPIL gave two reasons as to why TIG should not be allowed to draw down funds deposited in the escrow account:
i) TIG's Valuation 7 was not a valid Interim Application; and
ii)if Valuation 7 was found to be valid, JPIL's agent had issued a valid pay less notice in accordance with the contract.
TIG argued that it had issued a valid interim application and that no pay less notice was received from JPIL.
The parties had followed the same procedure for valuations 1 to 6 and the supporting information for the payment notice was consistent each time. On two occasions, JPIL had issued a pay less notice to TIG and on both occasions, JPIL had provided supporting evidence to TIG in the same format to substantiate the figure arrived at in the pay less notice.
For Valuation 7, the parties deviated from their usual procedures and in particular, TIG did not issue an invoice for payment as they had done for valuations 1 to 6. Communication between the parties took place via email and JPIL argued that this Interim Application for Valuation 7 was invalid as it had been received by email. JPIL also claimed that the email did not contain sufficient information to constitute an interim application.
The contract was silent on whether email constituted a valid form of notice nor did it deal expressly with what form an interim application should take. However, the Court found that the parties had agreed a mechanism for dealing with payment notices through their course of dealings and that the procedure for Valuation 7 was "materially different".
The Court concluded that the interim application for payment was invalid. Although no longer relevant, the Court also concluded that JPIL's pay less notice in relation to Valuation 7 was "completely different" to those which had been served before and was invalid.
7 cf Caledonian Modular Ltd v Mar City Developments Ltd  EWHC 1855 (TCC); Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust v Logan Construction (South East) Ltd  EWHC 17 (TCC); Trilogy Services Scotland Ltd v Windsor Residential  SAC (Civ) 2 (17 January 2017).
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4. PAYMENT (continued)
(ii) Interim and final applications
Harding (t/a MJ Harding Contractors) v Paice and another  EWCA Civ 1231 (1 December 2015)
This was one of many cases8 which sought to clarify the position in relation to payment notices, pay less notices, final and interim payments.
Harding, the claimant contractor launched an adjudication in which it was decided that Harding was entitled to payment of around 340,000 from Paice, the defendant developer. Paice had failed to issue a pay less notice in response to Harding submitting the final account following termination.
Paice launched a subsequent adjudication seeking a decision on the correct value of the final account. Harding applied for an injunction to restrain Paice from proceeding with this on the grounds that: (i) the value of the contract works had already been determined in the earlier adjudication; and (ii) the adjudicator had already issued his decision on the dispute.
The Judge in the first instance agreed with the adjudicator's decision that Paice was liable to pay the final account sum. However, the Judge also decided that this did not prevent Paice from commencing further proceedings to determine the value of the works. In this case, whilst the adjudicator had reached a decision on whether Paice had to pay the final sum, the adjudicator had not gone as far as deciding the true value of the final account sum leaving the door open for Paice to launch an adjudication on this point.
The Court of Appeal upheld the first instance decision. Lord
Justice Jackson found that as a matter of construction, the word "decision" in paragraph 9(2) of the scheme means "decision in relation to that dispute". The Court further confirmed that although the adjudicator had reached a decision in relation to the failure to serve a payless notice (which was a contractual issue), he had not reached any decision in relation to the value of the final account, (which was a separate valuation issue).
Kilker Projects Limited v Rob Purton (t/a Richwood Interiors)  EWHC 2016 (TCC) (22 September 2016)
Rob Purton (t/a Richwood Interiors) (Purton), a joinery subcontractor, was engaged by Kilker Projects Limited (Kilker) to carry out specialist joinery works at the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane. After carrying out the works, Purton submitted its final payment account. Kilker failed to serve either a payment or pay less notice by the due date and failed to pay Purton by the last date for payment. Based on the ISG 9 and Galliford 10 cases, the sum in Purton's application for payment became the sum now due and Kilker had to pay it.
After Kilker failed to make payment, Purton referred the dispute to adjudication, stating that Kilker had failed to serve the relevant payment and pay less notices in time and therefore had to pay the "notified sum" in the final payment application. The adjudicator agreed with Purton and ordered Kilker to pay 147,223 in respect of the final account (Purton's final account in full). Kilker paid this sum following enforcement by the TCC. Kilker then launched an adjudication for a revaluation of the final application.
Purton's defence relied on the same argument as in the first adjudication, namely, that Kilker had not submitted adequate notices and therefore had accepted the valuation of the works.
Both the adjudicator and the Court came to the conclusion that the valuation was wrong and Purton was ordered to repay 55,678.84 plus VAT to Kilker. The Court held that a party could refer a final valuation to a second adjudicator for valuation. Following the judgment in Harding v Paice, the Court held that the second adjudicator's remit was to determine "the proper value of that final account" rather than focus on the notified sum payable under the final account application.
Kersfield Developments (Bridge Road) Limited v Bray and Slaughter Limited  EWHC 15 (TCC) (18 January 2017)
Kersfield and Bray entered into a contract on 5 January 2015 for Bray to carry out refurbishment and conversion works at a mansion house and stable blocks and to build houses nearby. The contract was based on the JCT Design and Build 2011 as amended and the parties agreed provisions for monthly interim payments to fall on the fifth day of each month or the closest working day.
When Bray issued its nineteenth interim application for payment ("Application No. 19"), Kersfield failed to pay and Bray commenced adjudication proceedings. Bray's grounds for claiming payment were that Kersfield had not complied with the contract, as they had not served the requisite payment or pay less notices.
8 ISG Construction Ltd v Seevic College  EWHC 4007 (TCC); Galliford Try Building Ltd v Estura Ltd  EWHC 412 (TCC). 9 ISG Construction Ltd v Seevic College  EWHC 4007 (TCC) 10Galliford Try Building Ltd v Estura Ltd  EWHC 412 (TCC)
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Kersfield argued that Application No. 19 was invalid as Bray did not set out details as to how the sum had been arrived at. The adjudicator agreed with Bray and ordered Kersfield to pay the sum in Application No. 19. Kersfield wanted a more substantial examination of the key issues and brought the matter to Court.
The Court held that Application No. 19 was valid. If an employer disagrees with the interim application for payment, its remedy is to serve a payment or pay less notice. In the Court's view, the interim application for payment set out sufficient detail for Kersfield to establish whether or not it would need to serve a counter notice. Kersfield, through its employer's agent, did submit a payment notice but as this was served late. A pay less notice was issued at the same time, however, owing to deemed service under the contract this was also served out of time, but it clearly showed that Kersfield took issue with the interim application for payment. The Court applied "the doctrine of approbation and reprobation" to this scenario and found that Bray was not barred from claiming that Application No. 19 was valid because the payment notice from Kersfield was late.
The Court moved on to consider the validity of the pay less notice which Kersfield served on Bray. Kersfield argued that they had served the pay less notice in a way which was consistent with the Housing, Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. However, the contract had further provisions on the method and timescale for serving notices. Kersfield's notice was not served in accordance with the contract and therefore, the pay less notice was not deemed validly served.
Three further issues came before the Court in this case: (i) procedural unfairness; (ii) whether a second adjudication was available to Kersfield to decide the proper valuation; and (iii) whether a stay of judgment would be permitted. On the first point, Kersfield argued that the adjudicator had not highlighted which documentation was to be relied upon for the decision. The Court disagreed as the questions before the adjudicator had been answered and both parties had had the opportunity to review all of the documentation submitted to the adjudicator.
In terms of the second point. Bray contended that as Kersfield had not served a payment or pay less notice, the sum stated in Application No. 19 was payable immediately and any revaluation could be carried out at the next interim payment stage or as part of the final account.
The Court held that Kersfield could not bring adjudication proceedings as the contract provided for a reconciliation of payments at the final account stage. In coming to this view, the Court provided the first guidance on the meaning of sections 111(8) and 111(9) of the 1996 Act. It concluded that s 111(8) only applied where a valid payment or pay less notice had been served and which disputed the sum owed by the paying party. Where no such payment/pay less notice had been served, then the paying party was obliged to pay the `notified sum' set out in the default payment notice issued by the unpaid party.
On the final point the Court found in favour of Bray as the circumstances for granting a stay of the judgment were not exceptional.
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust v Logan Construction (South East) Ltd  EWHC 17 (TCC) (13 January 2017)
Surrey and Sussex NHS Trust ("Surrey and Sussex") engaged Logan Construction (South East) Ltd ("Logan") to carry out refurbishment works at East Surrey Hospital for a sum in excess of 4 million. The parties entered into a contract based upon the JCT Intermediate Building Contract with contractor's design, 2011 Edition. The works achieved practical completion in August 2015 but some confusion occurred as to the validity of an interim payment notice issued shortly afterwards and a dispute arose in respect the value of the final account.
The matter went to adjudication so that two issues could be examined: (i) whether the interim payment notice was valid; and (ii) whether emails containing attachments (none of which were clearly labelled) constituted a valid pay less notice from the employer. The adjudicator sided with Logan in deciding that the interim application for payment was valid and that the pay less notice was not valid. Surrey and Sussex sought a declaration from the Court on both issues. On both questions, the Court focused on the intentions of the parties by considering emails and their attachments as a whole. The Court's decision was that the interim application for payment was valid as there was clear intention on the part of the contractor to apply for payment of this sum despite the fact the application was not labelled clearly. For similar reasons, the Court also held that the pay less notice issued by Surrey and Sussex was valid as the intention mattered more than the form or language of the notice.
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5. ADJUDICATION SCOPE
11Allied P & L Limited v Paradigm Housing Group Limited  EWHC 2890 (TCC)
Lulu Construction Limited v Mulalley & Co Limited  EWHC 1852 (TCC) (17 March 2016)
It is generally understood that a successful party cannot claim legal costs incurred in bringing an adjudication.
Lulu Construction Limited ("Lulu") sought to claim debts of 47,666.27 (the legal cost of running the adjudication) plus interest amounting to 9,794.70 for late payments for sums awarded to them in a previous adjudication by bringing enforcement proceedings against Mulalley & Co Limited ("Mulalley"). The Court noted that the claim being pursued was "not specifically referred to in the Notice of Adjudication, nor in the Referral Notice, nor in the Response. It was pleaded for the first time in the Rejoinder." Mulalley argued that on this basis, the adjudicator lacked jurisdiction to decide the dispute and that the adjudicator could only decide the issues referred to him in the referral notice; the issue of debt recovery was not one of these issues.
The Court found in favour of Lulu and held that the adjudicator was right to consider Lulu's claim as being part of the adjudication process despite not having been mentioned in the preliminary issues. The decision reached by the Court was based on the preceding case of Allied P & L Limited 11 in which Akenhead J decided at paragraph 30(d) that if the sums claimed are "so connected with and ancillary to the referred dispute" then it must properly "be considered as part of it".
It is important to note that the issue considered by the Court was purely one of jurisdiction. The Judge did not make a determination as to whether the adjudicator was ultimately correct in his decision, but instead that he had the jurisdiction to make it. This case by no means grants an automatic right for a party to claim fees or costs expended in an adjudication process. However,
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the Court's decision is likely to result in an increasing number of successful parties attempting to claim their costs in adjudication by reference to the late payment of debts regime.
Penten Group Limited v Spartafield Ltd  EWHC 317 (TCC), 165 Con LR 97 (18 February 2016)
This case arose out of a series of adjudications which the parties brought against each other. To complicate matters further, the first (and most central) issue that the adjudicator had to decide upon was whether or not there was a construction contract in place and what the terms of that contract were.
The claimant ("Penten") was appointed by the defendant ("Spartafield") to carry out building works and the works commenced in mid-2013, it became apparent that the parties had intended to use the JCT ICD contract, however, that contract was never signed. What the parties had signed was a letter of intent dated 19 July 2013 and this formed the basis of their contractual relationship. Spartafield terminated Penten's employment in April 2015 and later that year brought the first adjudication against Penten. Various issues were included in the notice of adjudication which fell into two main categories:
i) the form of construction contract that the parties had entered into; and
ii)a set of financial claims.
In his decision, the adjudicator held that the letter of intent was the basis of the contract rather than the JCT ICD. It followed that Spartafield had the right to terminate Penten's contract but that right derived from the letter of intent. The adjudicator also dealt with all of the financial claims put forward by Spartafield. From that point, the parties continued to serve notices of
adjudication on each other and the matter eventually came to Court.
The Court quickly identified that the key issue between the parties was whether or not there was a valid construction contract in place and if so, what form that took. Spartafield agreed with the adjudicator that the contract was based on the letter of intent but did not agree that the rights and obligations of the parties stemmed from that letter. A further argument put forward by Spartafield was that the adjudicator had no jurisdiction to decide that the letter of intent was the form of contract. Whilst the adjudicator was not specifically asked to comment on the status of the letter of intent, the Court held that this did fall within the adjudicator's jurisdiction as the parties asked for a decision on the form of contract. As part of its defence, Penten had suggested that the letter of intent could amount to the agreed terms between the parties and as the adjudicator found that the JCT ICD had not been concluded, the common sense approach was to look to that letter of intent. The Court agreed with Penten that the letter of intent governed the contractual relationship between the parties and held that the parties were bound by the decision in the first adjudication.
Stellite Construction Ltd v Vascroft Contractors Ltd  EWHC 792 (TCC), 165 Con LR 108 Judgment handed down 14 April 2016
Stellite was a property developer which appointed a contractor, Vascroft, to carry out building works at a residential property in Hampstead. The works were to be carried out under the JCT Standard Building Contract Without Quantities 2011. The project was split into two phases with phase two commencing on the basis of a letter of intent between the parties. When the project suffered
delays because of the phase two works, Stellite claimed liquidated damages from Vascroft. However, Vascroft did not agree that it owed any sums to Stellite in liquidated damages as the events that caused the delay, namely the delay with the works being provided under the letter of intent, had not fallen under the definition of `Relevant Events'. Vascroft pointed to its entitlement under the contract for an extension of time and claimed that the contract was running `at large'. The matter went to adjudication.
The adjudicator decided that time was `at large' and suggested that a reasonable completion date would be 5 March 2016 at the latest. The adjudicator also decided that Stellite was not entitled to liquidated damages. Following on from this decision, Stellite brought the matter to Court asking for consideration of two issues:
i) whether the adjudicator had breached the rules of natural justice; and
ii)whether the adjudicator had exceeded his jurisdiction.
The basis of the claim was that the adjudicator had relied upon his own knowledge in assessing the matter rather than focusing on the content of the notice of referral and the defence. This constituted a breach of natural justice as the parties did not have the opportunity to comment upon this information. However, the Court did not agree and simply stated that the adjudicator had applied "ventilated law to the material before him" no breach of natural justice had occurred. The second point for the Court to decide was whether it was within the adjudicator's jurisdiction to decide upon a reasonable date for completion of the works. This question was not included in either the notice of referral or the defence so the Court concluded that the adjudicator had acted beyond his scope on this point. Accordingly, this component of the adjudicator's decision was severed.
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UPDATES & OPINIONS: 2016/17
As mentioned previously, there has been a lot going on in the world of construction law over the past 15 months. We have set out below our commentary on some of the key updates and issues which have arisen in this period.
New suite of JCT contracts top changes for public sector clients (http://www.sharpepritchard.co.uk/ updates/new-suite-of-jct-contractstop-changes-for-public-sector-clients)
One of the key updates in 2016 was the announcement by the JCT that it would be publishing updated versions of its standard form building contracts and related contracts. The JCT has published new editions of the entire suite. The top five changes to note for public sector clients are:
1) Incorporation (with minor changes) of the provisions of the Public Sector Supplement 2011
2) Incorporation of provisions to reflect aspects of the Public Contracts Regulations (PCR) 2015
3) Incorporation of JCT 2015 amendment addressing the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) 2015, in relation to health and safety obligations
4) Introduction of options to provide performance bond or parent company guarantee in D&B contract
5) Increased flexibility in relation to the granting of third party rights in D&B contract
Other points to note:
The insurance provisions have been amended to allow for alternative solutions if tenants or domestic homeowners have difficulty obtaining joint names insurance for existing structures.
Part 2 of the D&B Contract Particulars has been deleted due to the incorporation of provisions related to collateral warranties and third party rights into Part 1.
The changes mentioned demonstrate the JCT's recognition of important market trends and its continued relevance in the modern day construction market.
NEC4 The new suite of NEC4 documents were published in June 2017. The update is an evolution of the existing NEC3 suite rather than a revolution and, with traditional NEC values largely unchanged, will appear familiar to NEC3 users. There are two new contracts which have been introduced to the suite:
NEC4 Design Build Operate Contract (DBO); and
the Alliance Contract (ALC) consultation form.
Public sector construction contract adjudication beware ambush or smash and grab! (http://www.sharpepritchard.co.uk/ news/public-sector-constructioncontract-adjudication-bewareambush-or-smash-and-grab)
Adjudication is the established method of dispute resolution in the construction industry.
Public authorities often engage contractors on large construction projects and come under intense scrutiny when problems arise. Projects rarely finish on time and disputes will often arise in relation to payment. It is important for authorities to recognise and understand the benefits of adjudication, and to distinguish it from the other main forms of dispute resolution.
Public sector spending on construction accounts for just over a quarter of construction output (26% in Q2 2015), comprising 1.4 billion on housing; 1.8 billion on infrastructure; and 2.6 billion on `other'. Growth in infrastructure spending has risen from just 1 billion in 201212.
According to Justin Mendelle, head of Construction Law at Sharpe Pritchard, `Since the recession, there have been two other interesting trends in the construction industry. First, the number of construction dispute adjudications has leaped by almost one third from 1,093 in 2011/12 to 1,439 in 2014/15; secondly, many of these have related to disputes about how the payment provisions now operate following their `updating' pursuant to the Local Democracy, Economic, Development and Construction Act which came into force in 2011. Most worryingly for employer clients, there has been a real rise in `smash and grab' adjudications'.
Risk 1 Ambush One of the key risks in adjudication is the danger of ambush. The referring party has freedom to prepare the notice of adjudication and referral without any time restriction. A responding party has an extremely limited timeframe (usually 7-14 days) in which to respond to the referral notice. A referring party may choose to use this tactical advantage in order to launch an adjudication with little or no warning. Some commentators claim to have seen a spate of ambushes prior to Christmas, but the Adjudication Society's review did not support this in 2014/15.
Risk 2 Smash and grab It is important for authorities to recognise that they may face particular risks if their internal financial or external advisory team are not aware of the critical deadlines for dealing with applications for payment in light of the new Construction Act.
Any authority which has outsourced its accounts payable function as part of a back office function needs to be particularly watchful.
There have been a spate of cases in the last 18 months on payment notices, including ISG Construction Ltd v Seevic College  EWHC
12Chris Rhodes, Construction Industry: Statistics and Policy, House of Commons Library, Briefing paper 01432, 6 October 2015
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4007 (TCC), Harding v Paice & Springall  EWHC 3824 (TCC) and Galliford Try Building v Estura  EWHC 412 (TCC).
Whilst the decisions in these cases seem to suggest slightly different answers to the same question, the overriding principle is crystal clear do not ignore an application for payment, or you could find yourself exposed to a `smash and grab' adjudication and no basis on which to defend it.
Could the payment provisions of the construction act displace capped payment sums set out in letters of intent? (http://www.sharpepritchard.co.uk/ updates/could-the-paymentprovisions-of-the-construction-actdisplace-capped-payment-sums-setout-in-letters-of-intent-first-publishedin-the-construction-law-review-2016)
It is not uncommon for letters of intent to include a cap on the amount payable to the contractor for the duration of time the letter is intended to cover. This should be relatively straightforward, particularly where there is an agreed schedule of rates or priced activities list, along with a clear scope of works and programme for the contractor to adhere to.
However, all too frequently, the parties do not agree on the terms of the final contract and letters of intent continue to be issued and re-issued, or worse elapse, leaving a void as to how the relationship is governed. The likelihood of disagreements increases, many of which will relate in some way to payment.
Assuming that the work authorised under a binding letter of intent is for a period of at least 45 days, it seems that the letter of intent could be construed as a construction contract for the purpose of the act, entitling the contractor to periodic payments.
The implications of this could be quite significant for both parties.
If and to the extent the payment terms of the letters of intent do not comply with the amended act, then the relevant provisions of the act (and scheme) would apply. As such, a contractor under a lump sum/ capped letter of intent could be entitled to periodic payments for the work done, even if the letter of intent did not anticipate this and the total payable in respect of such payments would not necessarily equate to the cap.
This opens up the question as to how much the contractor is entitled to. The amount of the periodic payments is implied by the provisions of the act and scheme. The key phrase in the scheme in analysing this is `the contract price', as it is this which sets the upper limit of the amount payable. It is defined as:
"The entire sum payable under the construction contract in respect of the work."
An employer may argue that this means the agreed capped figure set out in the letter of intent a position which, arguably, accords with common sense. However, as the construction contract is subject to all of the payment provisions of the act (to the extent that the letters of intent payment terms are noncompliant), section 111(1) cannot be overlooked. This requires the employer to "pay the notified sum." In the absence of any valid payment or pay less notice from the employer, such sum is the amount notified by the contractor (by means, usually, of payment applications). If the employer has not been administering the applications as closely as the act requires, then the sum total of the periodic notified sums may exceed the cap in the letters of intent.
The obvious way to avoid this risk is to ensure that, if a letter of intent is absolutely necessary, its payment terms are compliant with the amended act, and administered as such. Failing that, the employer
(or its contract administrator) must not take undue comfort from any capped figure in the letter and be alert to any interim/periodic payment applications made by the contractor. Failure to respond timely and comprehensively with payment and/or pay less notices runs the risk of the letters of intent cap being dislodged by the sum total of the notified sums.
Sharpe Pritchard LLP Projects & Adjudications
Construction projects During 2016 and the beginning of 2017, the construction team advised on all types of noncontentious construction schemes from leisure facilities, town centre redevelopments, energy from waste facilities, mixed-tenure housing schemes and school expansion programmes. The team has advised on all aspects of construction documents including standard form contracts, bespoke amendments to standard form contracts, bonds, parent company guarantees and collateral warranties, standard form and bespoke professional team appointments and partnering agreements. The team has also advised on construction procurement strategies and has worked with other professional team members (e.g. project managers and quantity surveyors) to facilitate complex, multi-phase projects.
Adjudications From its launch in February 2016, to date, SP Adjudication have acted as lead advisor in no fewer than 15 disputes. Almost half of these related to payment disputes and the others involved matters such as, general breaches of contract, NEC3 compensation events, extensions of time and a dispute regarding the application of the pain share mechanism under NEC3. The values associated with the aforementioned disputes range from 150,000 to 14 million. SP Adjudication achieved a successful outcome in 14 of the disputes.
13 Construction Law Review 2016/17
CONSTRUCTION REVIEW 2016/17: CONCLUSION
2017 so far and things still to come: Apprenticeship Levy came into force 6 April 2017. An employer with a
pay bill over 3 million each year must pay the apprenticeship Levy, which is charged at 0.5% of an employer's annual pay bill. Amendment to the Construction Industry Scheme came into force 6 April 2017 mandatory online verification of subcontractors introduced. The decision of the Supreme Court in the appeal of MT Hjgaard a/s v EON Climate and Renewables UK Robin Rigg East Ltd and another  EWCA Civ 407 has been reached and we will be publishing a case summary shortly.
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Construction Law Review 2016/17 14
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