Parties to a construction dispute have been labelled as unreasonable and intransigent by a Technology and Construction Court (TCC) judge after a series of procedural squabbles. Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart expressed his concerns about the conduct of litigation and costs in his judgement in Gotch v Enelco.

Simon and Susan Gotch had appointed Enelco Limited to construct two residential properties. When the parties fell out Enelco wanted to take their dispute to arbitration. The Gotchs disagreed with this approach on the grounds that the arbitration clause had been deleted in the contract. They sought a court order that the Enelco had no right to refer the matter to arbitration.

The judge was concerned that the application served no useful purpose and ordered that a case management conference was held to agree the way forward. Simon and Susan Gotch did not engage with the case conference and insisted that the Court determine the issue of arbitration.

Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart concluded that it was unnecessary to make an order and that the Gotchs conduct of the case was inexcusable. They were ordered to pay Enelco’s court costs. He said: “It is therefore time to say, in the clearest terms, that parties and their solicitors can no longer conduct litigation in a manner which does not keep the proportionality of the costs being incurred at the forefront of their minds at all times.”

The case sends out a clear signal that the courts are no longer willing to tolerate unnecessary delays and excessive costs according to James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professional Risks. “The courts’ insistence that cases are conducted as economically as possible is good news for professional indemnity insurers. Anything that keeps the cost of litigation down will help to mitigate any future increases in insurance premiums,” he said.

Additional information about Gotch v Enelco has been published by law firm RPC and Civil Litigation Brief.