Multiplex Constructions UK Ltd v Mott MacDonald Ltd

The contractor was entitled to a declaration that the adjudicator's decision as to the true interpretation of the contractual requirement for the structural engineer to give access to all its "pertinent records relating to the services" was binding and that the structural engineer was to comply with that decision

Technology and Construction Court
Jackson J
10 January 2007
The novation agreement provided that the structural engineer was to retain and give access to "all pertinent records relating to the services" but without defining what constituted such records. The contractor wrote to the structural engineer (1) setting out its definition and (2) requesting access to specified categories of documents. The structural engineer disputed the contractor's definition but refused to put forward its definition. This dispute was referred to adjudication and the adjudicator in his decision set out his own definition and held in the light of this definition that the contractor should have access to all its requested categories of documents. The contractor brought court enforcement proceedings in which it sought a declaration that (1) the decision was binding on the structural engineer and (2) the structural engineer was contractually obliged to comply with the decision forthwith (or such time as the court determined).
The structural engineer submitted that (1) the true nature of the dispute referred was a narrow one, namely whether the contractor's definition was correct (bearing in mind that the structural engineer never put forward its alternative interpretation of that phrase) and (2) the adjudicator did not have the jurisdiction to answer, as he did, the broad question of the true meaning of the phrase.
Jackson J rejected the structural engineer's submissions and held that the contractor was entitled to such a declaration on the basis that (1) the adjudicator acted within his jurisdiction in making his decision and (2) the Technology and Construction Court should as a matter of policy at each stage of litigation resolve every live issue then capable of resolution. He went on to say that (1) it was unreal and artificial to read the parties' correspondence as debating only the narrow question of the correctness of the contractor's definition of "all pertinent records relating to the services" (2) the issue in contention in the parties' correspondence was the true meaning of that phrase (3) the contractor correctly formulated the dispute as being whether its definition of the phrase was correct and (4) whether or not the adjudicator was right in his interpretation of the phrase, he resolved a pre-existing dispute with the result that he acted within his jurisdiction.