With its 28 day turnaround as a key feature, Adjudication is the preferred forum for building contractors to have their payment disputes resolved.

Adjudication is often referred to as “rough justice” because it is typically a ‘documents only’ process with a highly truncated timeline within which to deliver claims, responses, defences & counterclaims, supporting documents and legal submissions. The adjudicator will only consider any document provided by the parties. Most adjudicators are construction professionals, so they tend to be less concerned with legal niceties and more about the proofs before them. 

Parties who come out the wrong side of a decision and who feel robbed of their day in Court will inevitably bring challenges to the enforceability of such adjudication decisions.

The enforceability of an Adjudicator’s decision was recently challenged in the Technology & Construction Court in England and Wales (TCC) in the case J & B Hopkins Ltd -v- Trant Engineering Ltd [2020] EWHC 1305 (TCC).

The adjudicator issued a decision that the Claimant was entitled to a sum of £812,484.94 plus VAT. The Claimant issued fast tracked summary proceedings in the TCC to enforce the adjudicator’s decision. 

The Defendant brought an application to stay the enforcement application based on the concept of manifest injustice. Manifest injustice is defined as “an outcome in a case that is plainly and obviously unjust”.

However, the Judge found that because the Defendant had not challenged the enforceability of the adjudicator’s decision on either grounds of (i) jurisdiction; or (ii) breach of natural justice, that the challenge based on manifest injustice could not succeed.

Adjudication was introduced in the UK in 1996, and that jurisdiction has had a 20 year head start on adjudication jurisprudence in Ireland. This TCC decision re-affirms that the Courts will only allow adjudication decisions to be overturned on the limited grounds of jurisdiction and egregious breaches of natural justice. It is unlikely that the Irish Courts will resist the enforcement of an adjudication decision because the decision was wrong, unfair or was erroneous. Rough justice indeed!

If you have a construction related payment claim please contact David Heatley in Leman Solicitors, a corporate law firm, which specialises in construction disputes at dheatley@leman.ie or +35316393000.