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Warring Building Dispute Parties Urged to Settle

garden, hotelThe parties to a bitter building dispute have been urged by the Technology and Construction Court to stand back and ‘take a sensible and commercial look’ at the case and to consider whether it is worthwhile fighting on after six years of costly litigation. The court noted that the sums remaining at stake were relatively small and recommended that the parties put their ‘disgruntled feelings’ behind them.

The dispute between a company owned by a high net worth Russian businessman, a leading architect, his firm and various contractors concerned the multi-million-pound refurbishment of a substantial property in rural Surrey. After court and arbitration proceedings, the majority of the issues between the parties, principally relating to disbursements and alleged defects in the work, had been resolved.

However, ‘very stale’ proceedings were still on foot and the company applied to the court to lift a charging order that had been registered against the property since 2008 in respect of a £45,000 costs order made against it. It was submitted that the alleged debt had either been paid or should be treated as having been paid.

Mr Justice Akenhead dismissed the company’s application, saying that it would be ‘wholly wrong’ in the circumstances to discharge the charging order or to strike out proceedings seeking its enforcement through a sale of the property. Although further litigation remained open to the company, the judge said he ‘very much hoped’ that it would not take that course and would pay the costs bill promptly.

Observing that the remaining issues in the case were ‘crying out for resolution and settlement’, the judge noted the relative insignificance of the sums now at stake when compared to the value of the property. The dispute had already been extensively aired before an arbitrator, whose decision was binding, and the costs of pursuing the proceedings any further were likely to be out of all proportion to any sums remaining in issue.