In a case which underlines the potentially serious consequences of delay in seeking legal redress, an asbestos management contractor which claimed it was wrongly directed to pay more than £650,000 by an adjudicator left it too late to challenge the decision.
The company had been contracted to carry out asbestos surveys preparatory to a major construction and refurbishment project but faced claims in 2005 that it had failed to pick up on asbestos containing materials. The dispute went before an adjudicator in 2009 who directed the company to pay more than £650,000 compensation to the main contractor.
The company paid that sum and it was not until 2012 that it launched a High Court challenge to the adjudicator’s decision. The court noted that it remained unclear why the dispute had taken four years to proceed to adjudication and why another two and a half years had elapsed before court proceedings were instituted.
The company argued that, despite those lengthy delays, it remained entitled to have the dispute finally determined by a judge. It was submitted that the six-year limitation period that applies to contractual claims began to run when it made payment in accordance with the adjudicator’s decision and that the challenge was thus in time.
However, in striking out the company’s claim, the court ruled that the basic cause or right of action in relation to which the money was paid out accrued in 2005 and that the company’s challenge was therefore barred by limitation. A counter-claim by the main contractor that the adjudicator should have awarded greater compensation was also statute barred.