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Judge warns of surge in enforcements

A senior judge has warned that the High Court is keen to slash the number of adjudication enforcements clogging up court timetables after a significant increase in claims since the recession.

Technology and Construction Court judge Mr Justice Akenhead urged contractors to “carefully consider” requesting quicker-to-obtain default judgments if it was obvious a defendant would not co-operate in proceedings.

He said the rising number of adjudication enforcements was blocking up the TCC’s already tight schedule, as well as adding unnecessary costs for the court and firms involved. The judge revealed he had held talks with Mr Justice Ramsey, head of the TCC, about the problems caused by the growing numbers of firms not paying up following decisions made by out-of-court adjudicators.

Mr Justice Akenhead said: “During the current recession, the number of claimants seeking to enforce adjudication decisions in this court has run up by a very substantial amount and the TCC is anxious, if at all possible, to save costs and time for all concerned in the future.”

He stopped short of blaming construction companies and legal teams for the problems, saying: “They have  followed a practice which has broadly been acceptable to the court in the past.”

Robert Crossingham, partner at law firm Weightmans, attributed the trend to an overall rise in adjudications during the recession, as well as the decreasing ability – or inclination – for firms to pay the amounts they were found to have owed.

He said that while most savvy litigators would tend to use default judgments already, the growing number of smaller firms seeking enforcement may have led to more cases going through lengthier routes.

Mr Justice Akenhead’s comments were made in a judgment for a dispute between Coventry Scaffolding and Lancsville Construction. Coventry took the contractor to the TCC after two adjudications between the pair, the first of which found Lancsville owed more than £120,000 to its former subcontractor.

The money was owed in relation to scaffolding works at Peel House, in Regency Street, London. In regard to the case, the judge ruled: “It is clear that these decisions are enforceable, should be enforced and there  hould be judgment for the claimant in the sums claimed by them.”

The ruling followed a string of other adjudication enforcements at the TCC since the summer, including a £90,000 row between small building contractor SG South and developer King’s Head Cirencester. The court found in favour of SG, which had won two previous adjudications but was not paid.

Southern Electric Contracting resorted to the TCC after an adjudicator found it was owed £124,000 plus VAT and interest by Mead Realisations over work at a regional rural business centre in Somerset.

Mr Justice Akenhead last month found in favour of Southern and demanded the amount ordered in the adjudication be paid.