VGC Construction Ltd v Jackson Civil Engineering Ltd

The claims made in the payment applications in context were not so nebulous and ill-defined as to be incapable of giving rising to a dispute

Technology and Construction Court
Akenhead J
15 August 2008
The contractor contended that the claim advanced by the sub-contractor in the adjudication was so nebulous and ill-defined that the contractor could not sensibly respond to it with the result that no dispute had arisen which could have been determined in the adjudication. In particular the only claim which had ever been made in the two payment applications in question was for a single lump sum of £300,000 with no breakdown or supporting information which had been removed and separated from the remainder of the final account, was due to be the subject of a separate submission by the sub-contractor which was never made, was of such a nebulous nature that there could be no dispute in respect of it, lacked contractual foundation in law, was unsupported by any form of detail or analysis and was nothing more than a single line demand for the sum.
Akenhead J rejected these contentions. The claim for £300,000 was merely one of 150 sub-claims within the applications. The claim for delay and disruption was within that substantial part of the applications which related to variations with the result that it was or should have been clear to all concerned that the primary basis for any claim for delay and disruption related to variations. A number of the items within the variations part of the applications identified factors which purportedly give rise to delay or disruption. There were specific claims for "site prelims overrun" which would in all probability have identified to the recipient of the application that the general claim for delay and disruption (for £300,000) did not include for the site prelims. The fact that elsewhere there was reference to disruption costs would again suggest to the recipient that specific loss of productivity disruption was being claimed in other items. The recipient or any reasonable recipient in the circumstances would or should therefore have made the assumption that the general £300,000 was for other aspects of delay and disruption, the most obvious being a head office overhead and profit type claim. It must have been obvious to the contractor that this general and unparticularised claim related at least by way of a maximum to the 26 weeks' delay in completion which had occurred.