Stellite Construction Ltd v Vascroft Contractors Ltd (TCC - 14.4.2016)
The contract was for the construction of the shell and core of a substantial house which were referred to as the phase 1 works. The contract administrator issued a letter of intent in relation to fit-out works at the property, which were described as the phase 2 works. The employer claimed liquidated damages under the contract due to completion of the works having been delayed, which claim was disputed by the contractor. The employer referred its claim for liquidated damages to adjudication. The adjudicator decided that no liquidated damages were due because time for completion had been set at large on the ground that the contract administrator was unable to grant an extension of time under the contract for delay caused by the issue of the letter of intent and the carrying out of phase 2 works pursuant to the letter since such delay did not fall within any of the specified contractual relevant events.
The employer contended that the decision was unenforceable as a result of a breach by the adjudicator of the rules of natural justice because (i) The contractor did not argue that time for completion of the works was at large on the ground found by the adjudicator to be the cause of delay and (ii) The adjudicator did not give the parties a fair opportunity to comment on such a proposition.
Carr J in rejecting the employer’s contention stated that this was not a case where the adjudicator was relying on a new authority or line of authorities, let alone some external information, fact or expertise, or some expertise peculiar to himself, which he did not share with the parties. Rather he was applying ventilated law to the material before him in circumstances where, as he put it, the parties had, to their common knowledge and understanding, approached the issues on the facts from "slightly different angles". The circumstances of the instant case fell more aptly into the category of cases where the adjudicator decided a case by reaching a decision on a point of importance on the material before him rather than by accepting the precise submissions of one party or another. The adjudicator did so in circumstances where (i) The parties were each aware of the relevant material and (ii) The issues to which it gave rise had been fairly canvassed before him as he must himself have thought.