Jerome O’Sullivan, a Partner specialising in Construction Dispute Resolution, recently successfully concluded a complex construction dispute in the Mayor’s & City of London Court.
Our clients commissioned a firm of main contractors to carry out extensive refurbishment work to their school for children with special educational needs during the school summer holidays. The works were carried out defectively and the contractors failed to complete the works by the end of the school summer holidays, as they had agreed under the terms of the contract. Our clients had to instruct a separate firm of main contractors to remedy the defects and complete the project.
The main contractor was unwise enough to issue proceedings for a purported outstanding debt. When instructed by the school, Jerome promptly sought an extension of time and filed and served a robust Defence and a Counterclaim which exceeded the value of the purported debt.
The parties attended a without prejudice meeting, in which the main contractors made some concessions but they did not amount to a realistic attempt to settle the dispute. The main contractors proceeded to make increased offers in settlement as the proceedings continued. However, it was only after the parties attended the first Costs & Case Management Conference and the main contractors realised the likely amount of the adverse costs award consequent upon pursuing their unfounded action to trial, that they started to seriously negotiate with the school.
Jerome succeeded in negotiating a settlement that involved the main contractors withdrawing their claim in its entirety and making a substantial contribution towards the school’s Counterclaim and the legal costs that they had incurred defending the action.
This case highlights a general principle in litigation. If a party decides it has got a strong case, then it should be prepared to pursue it to trial, unless an attractive offer is forthcoming. However, if a party realises it has a weak case, it should avail of without prejudice negotiations and mediation as soon as possible, with a view to disposing of the action on the best possible terms.
This was another successful resolution for our clients by our experienced Construction Dispute Resolution department.