What is it with the world these days?  Everywhere seems mired in strife, from the appalling events in Syria, mass kidnapping in Nigeria, riots in Brazil to the return of, it has been suggested, cold war style war games in Ukraine.  Closer to home things are less life-threatening, but persist to vex us, as Pfizer and AstraZeneca may or may not do something, with politicians arguing about who may or may not be doing less about it, possibly, and the European and Scottish “questions” continue to circle minds like ideological vultures.  In other news the economy may be recovering, but the housing market continues to be grossly overpriced, and you will now need £1.7bn to join the top 50 richest people in the country (thank you Financial Times for that nugget, pun intended).

A little dramatic?  Perhaps, but a recent case involving a Spanish Armada… sorry, contractor, inspired a little reflection. 

In Obrascon Huarte Lain SA v Attorney General for Gibraltar [2014] EWHC 1028 (TCC) the claimant contractor issued proceedings against the defendant government concerning a contract for the design and construction of a road and tunnel under the runaway of Gibraltar airport.  The contract was terminated after 2½ years, on a 2-year project, and only 25% of the work had been completed.  In fact no permanent works had been done for some considerable time.  Three key issues arose: (1) was the amount of contaminated material in the ground to be excavated reasonably foreseeable by the contractor at the time of tender, (2) was the defendant entitled to serve notice of termination as a result of the claimant’s failure to remedy the defaults and perform the contract and (3) the effectiveness of a termination notice issued to an address not specified in the contract. 

The claim was dismissed.  The court found that (1) the contaminated soil and groundwater was not greater than that to have been reasonably foreseen by an experienced contractor at tender, (2) there were continuing grounds of non-compliance to remedy defects and serious and substantial dilatory conduct by the claimant, who was found to have caused at least a 2-year delay on the project, and (3) service of the termination notice, although not at the contract specified address, was effective and valid service as the notice had been immediately passed on to those with capacity to receive such notice.

Although this case does not elucidate new law it should remind us of the need for clear communication between parties, timely performance of the contract and to be mindful of the need for diligent tendering.  Should we not seek to build stronger relationships? After all is peace not only good for people but for business too?