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Adjudicator’s Decision Legally Bullet-Proof

In upholding an award of more than £280,000 to a brickwork sub-contractor engaged in a major residential development, the High Court has emphasised that it will only very rarely interfere with adjudicators’ decisions – even if it takes the view that they are wrong or based upon an obvious mistake.

The brickwork company had been employed by the main site contractor to carry out work on three blocks of flats. The company claimed that its work had been delayed for about six months through no fault of its own and sought compensation for, amongst other things, loss of profits and increased overheads.

The dispute was referred to an adjudicator who found that the company was entitled to a total of £381,459, less any sums that it had already received from the main contractor. The adjudicator did not specify a net sum that was payable; however, the company asserted that the decision entitled it to £283,467.

The main contractor argued that the adjudicator’s decision was unenforceable due to the lack of certainty as to the exact sum payable. It was also submitted that the adjudicator had no power to calculate the value of the claim in a manner that neither side had argued was correct, and that he had not permitted the parties to address him on a critical issue in the dispute.

Dismissing the main contractor’s challenge, the Court ruled that the adjudicator had neither exceeded his jurisdiction nor breached the rules of natural justice. Even had flaws in his decision been established, they were ‘not material’ in that there had been no adverse impact on the main contractor’s position.

Noting that there is no rule of law that a judge, arbitrator or adjudicator must decide a case only by accepting the submissions of one party or the other, the Court observed that it is well established that judges will only in exceptional cases interfere with the decision of an adjudicator who has, rightly or wrongly, answered the question referred to him.