Lawyers for Mott MacDonald and Multiplex are locked in debate over which company documents should be disclosed for the £253 million trial, with Multiplex claiming it is impractical to hand over the “10 million or more” documents it has relating to the troubled project.
Concerns were also raised about how much commercially sensitive material could be disclosed.
The court was told that while Mott had about 600,000 relevant documents, Multiplex had more than 10 million.
The contractor said it had created a database of 5m of the most relevant, but it argued against sending over the files in full, claiming they would take “about 100 days” just to download.
Mott has also asked the court for permission for its consortium partners Connell Wagner and Sinclair Knight Merz to view all disclosed documentation. “We will need their assistance in defending these proceedings”, Mott’s lawyers said.
The High Court has ordered the firms to agree a viable solution. If this cannot be decided, the firms will go back before the court in late September.
Multiplex requested the case be run as an ‘e-trial’ but Mr Justice Coulson indicated this would be unlikely. Lord Justice Jackson criticised the contractor last year for having spent more than £1 million on photocopying for its trial with against steelwork firm Cleveland Bridge.
Mr Justice Coulson acknowledged he might be “regarded as a dinosaur” as he suggested an e-trial was unlikely.
He told the parties he did not find the system user-friendly.
Mr Justice Coulson said: “It may be due to my computer illiteracy, but I find it very difficult to [work with] an e-bundle.”
Mott MacDonald’s counsel Andrew White QC added: “This has been experimented with on big cases and it has not gone well.”
It was suggested that while the majority of the material would be provided to the judge in hard copy, there may be a small number of bundles supplied electronically.