AN 18.5 million legal battle between Mowlem and insurance giant Eagle Star hit the High Court last week with lawyers using the latest computer equipment to clarify the highly complex case.
The Carlton Gate dispute, first revealed in Construction News in late 1989, is one of the biggest to go before the Official Referees for years.
The opening remarks by Mowlems counsel, Charles Falconer QC, could take two weeks. The case is scheduled to last six months.
Mowlems legal costs alone could top 2 million. Its solicitors are presenting their case on-screen using CD-ROM technology, for what is thought to be the first time in a construction case.
The case centres on Mowlems dismissal from a 50 million-plus management contract to build the 580-home Carlton Gate complex in west London.
Mowlem claims it was dismissed after an illegal conspiracy between Eagle Star part owner of Carlton Gate Development Company and the architect Phippen Randall & Parkes. It is claiming the 18.5 million for the effects of the dismissal and the costs associated with taking its case to arbitration.
Mr Falconer told Judge Peter Bowsher that a 59 million financing deal had been struck by the developer with a syndicate of banks. But rocketing costs put the deal under severe pressure.
The crunch came in September 1989 when Mowlem submitted a claim for 1.1 million to pay subcontractors disrupted by other firms delays and defaults.
Mr Falconer alleged the developer then decided to deduct damages of 1.1 million from two certificates to avoid an impending cashflow crisis.
Money was withheld from subcontractors who, in turn, reduced their work.
Mr Falconer alleged that on December 22 1989 Eagle Star procured or persuaded CGDC to terminate the management contract.