UK Highways A55 Ltd and Others v Hyder Consulting UK Ltd and Hyder Consulting [2012] EWHC 3505 Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart, TCC 6thDecember 2012

This was a claim in relation to professional services provided by the defendants on a project for the construction of a major road, the A55, in North Wales.

The first defendants were the consultants and the second defendants their guarantor. Some years elapsed between the issue of the Claim Form and the service of the Particulars of Claim. Questions arose as to whether time ran in the meantime and, if so, whether an extension of time should be granted.

The claimants contended that proceedings had been generally stayed while the parties discussed mediation and other matters and that it was therefore not required to serve the Particulars within 14 days after the service of claim as prescribed by the CPR. The general stay contended for arose upon expiry of a series of specific stays ordered by the Court.

The judge disagreed. A general stay remains in force until lifted, whereas a particular stay to the date or event automatically ceases when it is reached, so that proceedings resume and time begins to run again.

The effect in this case was that the time for service had expired. Applying the provisions for relief from sanctions, the judge considered the effect of the Claimant's failure to comply with the time limit on each party. Of particular importance was prejudice.

The Judge drew a distinction between design complaints likely to be recorded in the project documentation and supervision complaints which may depend on factual evidence of what occurred on site.

Construction took place about twelve years before.

He imposed a condition on the granting of the extension of time disallowing those parts of the Particulars of Claim which raised the supervision issue.

The claim would thus be confined to issues which could be resolved by expert evidence, rather than evidence of fact as to long-past events.

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This material is prepared for Chambers by our Director of Research and Professional Development, Professor Anthony Lavers (LL.B. M.Phil Ph.D. D.Litt MCI.Arb FRICS Barrister) Visiting Professor of Law, Oxford Brookes University.