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Contract Adjudicators’ Awards Will Be Enforced – Regardless of Error

Regardless of factual or legal errors, contact adjudicators’ rulings will generally be enforced by the courts, on the basis that reaching the right result is secondary to rapid dispute resolution. The High Court made that point in upholding one such award, although it contained a calculation error that made a difference of up to £2.45 million to the final outcome.

Road trafficThe case concerned a 10-year contract by which a local authority employed a company to carry out highway maintenance and other works. The council paid more than £204 million over the contract’s lifespan but a dispute arose as to the impact of inflation on the payments due. An adjudicator decided that a balancing payment of over £9.5 million was due from the company to the council.

The latter sought enforcement of the award, plus interest – a total of about £12.3 million. However, the company challenged the award on various grounds. It was accepted by both sides that the adjudicator had made a calculation error when dealing with complex spreadsheets in the latter stages of the adjudication. That error was between £1.99 million and £2.45 million in the council’s favour.

In ruling on the case, the Court noted that it is well established that adjudicators’ awards that are reached within their jurisdiction, and without serious irregularity, are enforceable regardless of either errors of fact or law. In the present case, both parties had themselves made mathematical errors in the material that they placed before the adjudicator and no criticism could be made of the latter. He had been required to deal with very complex calculations, in which compounding was used, under very considerable pressure of time. All grounds of challenge to his decision were dismissed and the Court directed enforcement of the award in full.