HG Construction Limited was engaged as contractor by Ashwell Homes (East Anglia) Limited for the development of new housing in Cambridgeshire. The contract was based on the JCT Standard Form of Building Contract With Contractor’s Design (1998 Edition). The contract provided for sectional completion. Disputes arose and there were four adjudications. In this judgment, Mr Justice Ramsey had to consider the enforceability of the third adjudicator’s decision. Ashwell argued that the third decision dealt with issues that had already been determined in respect of the first decision.

In the first notice of adjudication Ashwell asked the adjudicator to determine “the validity and/or enforceability of the provisions within the contract for the deduction of liquidated and ascertained damages”. The adjudicator decided that, as a matter of the objective construction of the terms of the contract, it was possible to determine the works that were included within each section and therefore the provisions in the contract for the deduction of liquidated and ascertained damages were valid and enforceable.

The third adjudication then involved a dispute about the proportionate relief in respect of liquidated and ascertained damages as a result of partial possession of the sections. As part of the decision, the adjudicator decided that the liquidated and ascertained damages of the contract were “inoperable and therefore void for want of certainty”.

The issue, therefore, was whether a subsequent adjudicator is bound by the decision of an earlier adjudicator.