Corelogic Ltd v Bristol City Council

[2013] EWHC 2088 (TCC)

This case, where Corelogic sought to amend its Claim arising out of an alleged breach of the procurement regulations, provides a useful reminder about the 30-day limitation period that applies. Claims must be issued and served in this period which runs from the date when a claimant first knew or ought to have known that grounds for starting proceedings had arisen. A party cannot seek to get round this by adding “new claims” which, at the time of the amendment, are barred by limitation.

Corelogic were told on 22 March 2013 that their tender was not successful. Two days later, they asked for a debrief. On 27 March 2013, Bristol extended the standstill period until 8 April and provided some information. Correspondence continued with some further information being provided. Eventually Corelogic issued proceedings and asked for a general extension of time for service of the Particulars of Claim. Bristol agreed and again further correspondence followed until on 17 June 2013, Corelogic’s solicitors wrote to Bristol with a draft amendment to the Claim Form. Bristol objected saying that this would raise new causes of action and so wouid be statute barred under Regulation 47D (2). The problem was this. The Claim Form was based on complaints relating to the lack of provision of appropriate information prior to the issue of the Claim. The draft amended Particulars relied on other alleged breaches such as the “manifest error of assessment”, “failure to treat tenderers equally or act in a transparent way”, “failure to clarify” and the use of “undisclosed criteria”. Bristol argued that the addition of these items did raise new claims because the Claim Form in its original wording only related to the alleged inadequate provision of information post-tender.

It was agreed that the standard of knowledge required to start time running in these types of case was a knowledge of the facts which apparently clearly indicate, though they need not absolutely prove, an “infringement”. It was also accepted that if one was just construing the words on the Claim Form, they could and would be taken to be referring only to complaints about failure, post-award, on the part of Bristol, to provide the requisite information to the unsuccessful tenderer. All the complaints raised in correspondence before the Claim Form was issued related to the non-provision of information to which Corelogic thought it was entitled. The amendments which added breaches for manifest error in the assessment of the Claimant’s tender price and for the nondisclosure of formulae for translating prices into scores, therefore raised new claims.

Corelogic attempted to argue that all the claims arose out of the same or substantially the same facts. However, the original complaint related to the period after the tender was rejected and arose in the post-award period whilst the new complaints related to the award of the contract and the period leading up to it. This meant that the amendments were barred by limitation. Corelogic had been aware since 9 May 2013, if not before, that the new claims could be pursued. Its letter of that date set out in sufficient detail the new complaints and no further information was provided to it by Bristol thereafter. Thirty days had clearly elapsed. That left the question as to whether there was a “good reason” for permitting an extension. None was put forward. The amendments were not allowed.