Coronavirus (COVID-19)—court refuses to injunct adjudication proceedings (Millchris Developments v Waters)

Coronavirus (COVID-19)—court refuses to injunct adjudication proceedings (Millchris Developments v Waters)

In Millchris Developments Ltd v Waters [2020] EWHC 1320 (TCC), the Technology and Construction Court refused to grant an interim injunction to prohibit the defendant from continuing or commencing adjudication proceedings, rejecting the claimant’s submission that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic gave rise to exceptional circumstances in which an injunction should be granted.

What are the practical implications of this case?

The case confirms that it will only be in exceptional circumstances that the court will grant an injunction to restrain adjudication proceedings where the basis put forward is that the adjudication will necessarily be conducted in breach of natural justice. An example of such a scenario, suggested by the court, was where the adjudicator had made it plain that they only intended to hear from one party.

In relation to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on adjudication proceedings, the ruling makes it clear that the court will expect the parties to give thought to appropriate workarounds, such as remote conferences and site visits, in order to enable proceedings to continue. Where a party remains concerned that it is unable to comply with an adjudication timetable, the best solution may be to seek to agree an extension with the other party or adjudicator (as appropriate), rather than attempt to restrain the proceedings entirely.

What was the background?

Ms Waters appointed Millchris to carry out works at her home in Margate under a JCT Home Owner Contract. Although the contract was not subject to the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, it provided an express right for disputes to be referred to adjudication.

On 23 March 2020, Waters commenced an adjudication against Millchris in relation to alleged overcharging on the final account and defects. An adjudicator was appointed and the timetable provided for Waters to serve her submission by 30 March and for Millchris to respond by 3 April. On 26 March, Millchris wrote to the adjudicat

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About the author:

Jon is Head of the Built Environment Group at Lexis®PSL.

Jon trained at Hogan Lovells and qualified into the firm's construction disputes team. Jon has experience of acting for various parties in relation to disputes arising out of construction and engineering projects in various jurisdictions. Jon has acted for clients in TCC litigation, arbitration, adjudication and mediation as well as providing advice on various aspects of construction and engineering projects.