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Wembley steel lawsuit could run until 2007

The multi-million pound Wembley stadium court battle between Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge is expected to drag on until 2007.
The High Court case will begin on April 25 next year but at a pretrial hearing this week legal teams from both sides agreed to split the case because of amendments the pair made to their original claims.

At the hearing Mr Justice Jackson, who will preside over next year's trial, heard Multiplex QC Roger Stewart argue his client had to put the completion of Wembley above the court case at the moment and admitted the firm would be hard pressed to get all its submissions ready by the time the trial kicks off.

Multiplex and its former steelwork subbie are suing each other for damages and breach of contract. Mr Justice Jackson said the case hinged on which firm broke - or repudiated - the contract first when Cleveland Bridge left the job last August and what the true value of the work Cleveland carried out was when it signed a heads of agreement deal with Multiplex in February 2004.

Cleveland Bridge claims the value of the work it carried out up to this point was £32.66 million but Multiplex says the real value was £23.9 million. The repudiation and valuation parts of the case will be heard next spring with Mr Justice Jackson due to give a ruling on this at the end of May.

He said: 'The dispute is not uncharacteristic. What is special is the repudiation dispute. The question of who repudiated this contract is selfevidently an important one.'

Speaking about next April's time slot, Mr Justice Jackson said: 'I am quite satisfied it would be impossible to have an entire trial of all the issues.'

Just over £18 million rests on the repudiation and valuation parts of the case. The second stage of the hearing, which will cover issues such as defects and Multiplex's claim that Cleveland failed to build the arch in a 'good and workmanlike manner', is due to begin in January 2007.

But legal sources said this might not be heard if both sides agree on the repudiation and valuation rulings. One said: 'The judge has picked an issue that he thinks will bring every thing to a conclusion.'

by David Rogers