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Rowan Turrall
Rowan Turrall,
SENIOR ASSOCIATE - SOLICITOR
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Adjudicating more than one dispute at the same time?
09 August 2016

The case of Deluxe Art & Theme Ltd v Beck Interiors Ltd [2016] concerned a challenge to enforcement of two adjudication decisions. Enforcement was contested on the basis that there were two disputes between the parties and the adjudicator had therefore lacked jurisdiction. The claimant had started two separate adjudications but both were dealt with by the same adjudicator, the second being referred to him before he had given his decision in the first.

The facts

Beck engaged Deluxe Art as a subcontractor to supply and install joinery items at the Lanesborough Hotel. The parties had already been involved in one adjudication relating to variations and acceleration costs.

Deluxe Art commenced a second adjudication on 22 October 2015 in connection with a claim for an extension of time and loss and/or damage resulting from prolongation. Mr Matthew Bastone was appointed as adjudicator.

On 9 November 2015, whilst the second adjudication was still ongoing, Deluxe Art commenced a third adjudication relating to the failure of Beck to reduce the rate of retention from 5% to 2.5% following practical completion. Mr Bastone was again appointed as adjudicator by the RICS as a consequence of their policy of appointing the same adjudicator to deal with disputes under the same contract.

In both adjudications Mr Bastone found that sums were due to Deluxe Art. Beck resisted enforcement in the Technology and Construction Court.

The decision

The adjudications were conducted pursuant to the Scheme for Construction Contracts. Coulson J considered paragraph 8 of the Scheme which provides:

The adjudicator may, with the consent of all the parties to those disputes, adjudicate at the same time on more than one dispute under the same contract.”

He decided that in this case there were two separate disputes and Beck had not consented to the adjudicator dealing with both of them. He therefore found that the adjudicator did not have jurisdiction in relation to adjudication three and his decision was not enforceable.

Conclusions

The TCC is frequently engaged in determining whether an adjudicator has jurisdiction in the context of enforcement proceedings. The question of whether an adjudicator has decided more than one dispute within a single adjudication is one that has been well-rehearsed. This has often resulted in parties splitting out disputes into separate referrals to avoid issues with enforcement. As a result of this decision, parties to adjudications conducted under the Scheme will need to ensure they do not refer multiple disputes to the same adjudicator at the same time without their opponent’s consent. Alternatively if they want to have the same adjudicator they will need to wait for the adjudicator to give his decision before making a further referral. 

For more information about the issues raised in this article or to find out about how the Dispute Resolution team can help you please contact Rowan Turrall on 0118 952 7206 or email [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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