JW Hughes Building Contractors Ltd v GB Metalwork Ltd

The adjudicator had not breached the rules of natural justice by failing to take action to enable the contractor to deal with the sub-contractor's statement of case and supporting documentation first provided to the contractor at the meeting before the adjudicator

Technology and Construction Court
Forbes J
3 October 2003
The adjudicator made his decision in the sub-contractor’s favour. The sub-contractor brought court proceedings to enforce the decision and applied for summary judgment. The contractor contended that the adjudicator had been guilty of a breach of the rules of natural justice by failing to take appropriate steps at the meeting before him to enable the contractor fully and properly to present its case where the it had not previously been provided with the sub-contractor’s statement of case and/or the referral to adjudication and supporting documentation.
Forbes J rejected this contention on the basis that there was no reason to suppose that the adjudicator should have formed the view at the meeting that the contractor would be put to any significant and unfair disadvantage if the hearing went ahead without such steps. The contractor did not allege that the adjudicator or the sub-contractor had any responsibility for not providing the documentation insofar as it was common ground that it was served by the sub-contractor on the contractor’s former solicitors with the result that if there was any fault to be attached, it was that of those solicitors. There was no realistic prospect of the contractor establishing at trial that it suffered any irremediable or overwhelming disadvantage before the adjudicator.
The adjudicator had been aware in advance of the meeting that the contractor had some problems with missing paperwork, was satisfied that the sub-contractor had done what it was required to do by way of serving documentation on the contractor’s then solicitors and invited the contractor to raise the matter further with him some six days in advance of the meeting if the contractor felt it necessary to do so (which the contractor did not do). Therefore the adjudicator dealt with the matter in an entirely satisfactory manner by getting on promptly and fairly with the adjudication process.
Advice Note
Even if an adjudicator allows a party to “ambush” the other party by presenting new documents at a hearing, the adjudicator will not be guilty of a breach of the rules of natural justice if the other party is still able fully and properly to present its case.