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Vinci wins £9.6m damages battle with Gatwick subcontractor

Vinci has won a High Court dispute with a subcontractor over damages following delays to its £184m upgrade of Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal.

The French contracting giant was hired in 2012 to transform Pier 1 of the airport’s South Terminal.

It was revealed in 2014 that Vinci’s project had been hit by a “time slippage due to delayed closure of Pier 1 for contractual reasons” and “adverse weather conditions”.

The firm worked with specialist subcontractor Beumer, which delivered a new baggage handling system on the Pier 1 project.

The two companies became embroiled in seven different adjudications over the delays and how they related to the contract.

Beumer took six claims against Vinci to adjudication, with the French firm making a single £9.6m claim against the specialist for liquidated damages.

Vinci’s claim ended up in the High Court, where in August 2017 the contractor was awarded £9.6m by Mrs Justice O’Farrell, who issued a payment certificate the following October.

Beumer refused to pay the £9.6m, prompting Vinci to go back to the High Court seeking an enforcement order for the payment in May this year.

The subcontractor defended its non-payment by claiming that the August 2017 decision was inconsistent with the findings of the previous adjudications, and that the adjudicators had not provided “adequate reasons” for the decisions.

Details of the decisions in the previous adjudications have not been made public.

Beumer also alleged that Vinci should have been forced to disclose material from a separate dispute between Vinci and Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, which it alleged showed that the contractor was inconsistent in its arguments.

Deputy judge Mr Jonathan Acton Davis QC dismissed Beumer’s arguments in relation to the first two points, stating that the validity of previous decisions was not a matter for the enforcement proceedings.

Mr Davis also rejected Beumer’s argument that documents from Vinci’s dispute with Balfour should have been released.

The deputy judge said evidence suggested there were no inconsistencies in Vinci’s arguments across the two cases, and that Beumer had failed to provide “proper material” that would have forced the adjudicator to request the documents relating to the Balfour dispute.

A Vinci spokesman told Construction News that the company had nothing further to add.

Beumer has been contacted for comment.

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