Sudlows Ltd v Global Switch Estates 1 Limited [2022]

In an unusual turn of events, the TCC in Sudlows Ltd v Global Switch Estates 1 Limited [2022] found that an adjudicator’s alternative decision was enforceable despite his primary decision being unenforceable because of a breach of natural justice.

The Background to the Case

A dispute arose after a specialist employed to fit out and upgrade a new electricity substation in London refused to connect replacement cables pulled through by an alternative contractor, resulting in delay and associated loss & expense. The contract was a JCT Design and Build 2011 with amendments.

What Did the Court Decide?  

The Adjudicator had been wrong to conclude he was bound by a previous adjudicator’s decision, because the dispute referred to him was not the same or substantially the same as that previously determined. In taking to narrow a view of his jurisdiction, the Adjudicator had breached the rules of natural justice.

But in an unusual turn of events, the court decided the Adjudicator had nevertheless covered himself against that possibility by producing an ‘Alternative Decision’ alongside his primary findings. The court held that the Alternative Decision was enforceable despite the earlier breach of natural justice.

The Conclusion to the Case

The court was impressed by this “very sensible approach” of the experienced adjudicator, who had been astute to foresee a potential problem.  Importantly, the adjudicator had obtained the prior consent of both parties to his alternative approach, and it will not be in every case that the process is handled so deftly.

Adjudication is a quick and efficient method of resolving construction disputes which sometimes results in rough justice being served.  But while that goes with the territory, the adjudicator must nevertheless observe the rules of procedural fairness and ‘natural’ justice, as shown by this recent decision of the Technology and Construction Court.

Author David Spires 

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