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Adjudicators' decisions stick, rules court

CONTRACTORS COULD be forced to stick to adjudication rulings even though they are not legally binding as a result of a landmark court ruling last week.

The ruling came at the Technology & Construction Court where Justice Dyson upheld a case brought by groundworks subcontractor Macob Civil Engineering against Morrison Construction.

He ordered Morrison to comply with an adjudicator's decision to award £302,366 plus VAT and interest to Macob over disputed work on a retail development in Carmarthen.

Macob took the case to court after Morrison failed to comply with an earlier adjudicator's decision. Morrison argued the adjudication timescale demanded by the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 - the Construction Act - did not give adequate time for the adjudicator to make a just decision.

The main contractor also argued it did not have to pay as, under the Act, the adjudicator's decision is not final or binding. It said it intended to refer the matter to arbitration after practical completion of the contract.

But the Judge ruled that, while the matter could be referred to arbitration later, the adjudicator's decision stood and was enforceable in the interim - regardless of whether it was just or fair.

He added that although the timetable for adjudication was tight and likely to result in injustice, it was a decision made in accordance with Parliament's intention to provide a swift mechanism for settling disputes. To do otherwise, he ruled, would undermine the Act.

antonyo@construct.emap.co.uk

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