Professionals engaged in dispute resolution cannot afford to be faint-hearted as is evidenced by a recent case in which an adjudicator who stood between warring parties in an acrimonious construction contract dispute has fought off accusations of delay, bias, breach of natural justice and acting beyond his powers.
After the dispute was referred to him by one of the contracting parties, the other (the company) disputed his jurisdiction and only participated in the proceedings under protest. He was accused of bias and, after he reached his findings, the company argued that they had been published too late to be enforceable. For good measure, the company also insisted that the adjudicator had breached natural justice in failing to consider a material part of its defence.
Exonerating the embattled adjudicator, however, the High Court rejected each of the company’s criticisms of his conduct. There was no evidence of bias or unfairness on his part; his findings had been published within the required time and arguments that he had wrongly purported to decide certain issues which had already been resolved by a previous adjudication were also rejected. In the circumstances, the Court ruled that his decision was fully enforceable.