Nolan Davis Limited V Steven P Catton

The adjudicator's decision should be enforced against group of companies' owner on the basis of rejecting his contentions that no contracts had been concluded and that even if they had, there was a mistake as the identity of the employer
 
Nolan Davis Limited -v- Steven P Catton
22 February 2000
 
The parties intended that the contractor would carry out work under two separate contracts and contract with a company within a group of companies. However, the owner of the group of companies wrote to the contractor requesting it to proceed with the work and there was no indication on the face of the letter that it was from any of the group companies. The contractor began adjudication proceedings against the owner on the basis that he was personally liable under the Companies Act 1985. The contractor contended before the adjudicator that he was not personally liable and that the adjudicator had no jurisdiction because the contracts had been concluded with one or more of his companies. The parties agreed to the determination by the adjudicator of this preliminary point on the basis that if it was decided that he was so liable, the adjudicator would decide the contractor's claims on their merits. The adjudicator found that the owner was personally liable and made a decision in the contractor's favour. The contractor brought court proceedings to enforce the decision.
 
Judge Wilcox held that the decision should be enforced against the owner personally. Whilst the adjudicator had never considered whether contracts had been concluded, the owner's submission that this question had not formed part of the reference to the adjudicator with the result that it could and should be considered by the court should be rejected since (1) the parties agreed at the outset of the adjudication to be bound by the adjudicator's decision as to jurisdiction and (2) It would have been open to the adjudicator by necessary implication (had the evidence justified it) to find that there were no concluded contracts. The adjudicator's decision on the issue as to whether there had been a mistake as to the identity of the employer under any contracts should not be reopened by the court insofar as the parties had agreed that they would be bound by that decision and the decision was within the adjudicator's competence. Advice Note If the parties confer on the adjudicator authority to decide fundamental questions such as the correct legal identity of the defendant, the courts will be very unwilling to find that the adjudicator's decision was made without jurisdiction.