Adjudication: it isn’t always pay now, argue later

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The loser in an adjudication case can seek a stay of payment if it plans to appeal and the winner is financially unstable

An adjudication award against the loser is upsetting. The loser is not only a tad peeved, he also has to immediately fork out the awarded sum to the winner. True, the loser can pay up then take the same dispute to court. But meanwhile paying up is a sort of “adding insult to injury” idea. The loser doesn’t want to pay, not least because they think the damn-fool adjudicator has dashed back to their office in the asylum, but also they are fretting that the happy winner will take the money winnings and dump their construction company into a liquidator’s hands. In other words, if it eventually happens that the High Court orders the adjudicator’s awarded sums to be repaid, the money is gone – gone to the liquidator. It’s a fair and reasonable gripe that the awarded and paid sums might well go down the insolvency drain. Let’s face it, the construction industry wins the gold award year after year for being the best at going bust.

The adjudicator in the recent case of Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd vs Carmarthenshire County Council ordered the council to stump up £3,316,487 to the contractor. The council refused to pay on the basis that it did not accept the adjudicator had got it right, and it would now litigate the same dispute. But more particularly it did not want to pay up because the council said the contractor was insolvent and that the parent company guarantee was inadequate to safeguard the council’s position when it came back to court to argue that the result in the adjudication was so wrong that all the cash must be ordered to be repaid. Then lo, the pot would be empty. The £3m-plus would have been snaffled by the liquidator. The council would be left whistling for its money.

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