Woods Hardwick Ltd -v- Chiltern Air Conditioning Ltd
The adjudicator's breaches of the requirement of neutrality meant that the decision he made should not be enforced
2 October, 2000
The architect applied to enforce against its client by way of summary judgement the decisions of the same adjudicator in its favour in relation to two different projects involving the same parties. The client sought to resist enforcement on the ground that the adjudicator's decision-making process, and therefore the decisions themselves, were vitiated by procedural errors and by his failure to act impartially. Judge Thornton agreed with the client's contentions and refused to enforce the decisions. He made findings that the adjudicator exceeded the requirement of neutrality on the part of adjudicators (1) by conducting the adjudication in significant breach of the Scheme for Construction Contracts in that he failed to make available to the client highly material information and legal advice which he had obtained from the architect and various third parties which he relied on incoming to his decision and (2) by giving witness statements in the court enforcement proceedings which revealed that he had taken strongly against the client and had decided that an early stage that the client's case should be dismissed and in which he sought to argue that the architect's case and expand on the reasons for his decision. The finding that the adjudication was conducted in breach of the Scheme should be made notwithstanding the nature of adjudication proceedings and the fact that the adjudicator tried to act in an impartial manner and showed no conscious bias or hostility to the client. The difficulties inevitably faced by adjudicators did not mean in the instant case that the adjudicator should have made up his mind to shut out further comments from a party merely by reason of his believing that any comments he received on the newly acquired and material information from other sources, particularly from the other party, would not affect his view as to that party's position or should not have complied with his statutory duty to make available to both parties any information he took into account in reaching his decision. The statutory requirement to act impartially required the adjudicator to act in a way which did not lead to a party's perception of partiality which might objectively be held by that party. Advice Note Judge Thornton set out useful guidelines as to how an adjudicator must conduct the adjudication process so as not to be guilty of exceeding the requirement of neutrality on the part of adjudicators.