M&E contractor Emcor Drake & Scull has issued a High Court writ against Sir Robert McAlpine for £1m in damages after it was thrown off the £140m Dudley hospital PFI project in the West Midlands last December
McAlpine confirmed this week that it had received the writ. It has also issued a writ against Emcor for an unspecified amount.

The case centres on whether Emcor was bound by McAlpine's original order for work or whether it was entitled to pull out of the the project because a contract had not been signed.

Emcor claims that it offered to carry out work on the project for £34m after receiving an order from McAlpine. It said discussions had taken place over turning that into a contract but one had never been agreed.

The writ claims that McAlpine placed the £34m work with Emcor on 3 July 2001. The order stipulated that it should be for design and the procurement of some items of work. After failed attempts to finalise a subcontract, Emcor rejected the £34m order made in October 2002. McAlpine said Emcor was bound by the terms of the original agreement and must continue with the project. Emcor denies this claim.

Emcor has denied in the writ that it entered into a contract with McAlpine

Emcor claimed in the writ that it had planned to step down from the project with a controlled work handover but McAlpine had contended that this would be a repudiatory breach of contract. The writ claimed that Emcor resolved not to pull out its workforce when told of McAlpine's position, only to be ordered to leave later. The writ states: "On 18 December 2002 McAlpine told Emcor Drake & Scull to leave the site."

Emcor has denied in the writ that it entered into a contract with McAlpine. It claims that McAlpine has withheld £1,105,160.65 because of the alleged repudiatory breach of contract. The writ notes that McAlpine has also claimed the alleged breach had cost it more than £3m and it was exercising its rights of set-off.