In March 2019, in the English Court of Appeal, Sir
This article considers the label ‘subject to contract’ in English law and two recent English court decisions which consider the effect of this label in different factual circumstances. Parties who are negotiating a contract may use the label ‘subject to contract’ to ensure that they do not enter into a binding agreement before they are ready to do so. This can be particularly important in English law when a binding agreement can be reached (with a few exceptions) without any particular formalities. However, the label is not unassailable and whether it has the required effect will always depend on the circumstances.
Background The debate surrounding the use of tribunal secretaries in
Triple Point Technology, Inc v PTT Public Company Ltd 
The recent English case Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe Limited v Euler Hermes Europe SA (NV)  EWHC 2250 (Comm) highlights that where an on demand bond is assigned and a demand then made under that bond, the beneficiary will need to be sure not only that the demand is compliant with the terms of the bond but also that the assignment was effective in the first place.
Will an oral agreement override a written one that expressly prohibits oral modification? No. The UK Supreme Court in Rock Advertising Ltd - v - MWB Business Exchange Centres Ltd brings welcome clarification to the English common law on “no oral modification” (NOM) clauses. The courts will now uphold them.
Contract clauses that deny a contractor entitlement to an extension of time for concurrent delays caused by both employer and contractor are valid in principle. In North Midland Building Ltd -V- Cyden Homes Ltd  the Court of Appeal of England and Wales has ruled that such clauses do not offend the common law prevention principle. Nor do they give rise to an implied term to prohibit the imposition of delay damages that may result.
Although Clause 17 is titled ‘Risk and Responsibility’ it also sets out other provisions relating to indemnities, limitation of liability and, unusually, the specific topic of intellectual and industrial property rights. The clause provides that the Contractor assumes responsibility and bears the risk for the care of the works during execution and for remedying any defects during the Defects Notification Period. Risk transfers to the Employer on issue of the Taking–Over Certificate to the extent of works defined as being completed. Generally, in construction contracts ‘risk’ is understood to mean an event or circumstance which causes delay, loss or damage to the Works. A risk can be said to be Employer caused, Contractor caused or neutral. The purpose of risk allocation is to determine which party bears the risk for such events. The Contractor may be required to remediate the damage at his own cost or the Employer may be required to pay for the damaged works. It has been stated that the “FIDIC standard forms are generally recognised as being well balanced because both parties bear parts of the risks arising from the project.”
Clause 8 contains all the fundamental provisions relating to the start of the Works, the Time for Completion, delays and the entitlement of the Contractor to an extension of time and of the Employer to delay damages, and finally the circumstances in which a suspension of the Works can occur and the implications for the Parties.
MT Højgaard AS v E.ON Climate and Renewables UK Robin Rigg East Ltd & Anor is an important English case because it considered a fitness for purpose obligation in a design and build contract. In FIDIC’s Yellow Book contracts (1999 and 2017) there are also fitness for purpose obligations. This article examines the Supreme Court’s analysis of a fitness for purpose obligation in the Højgaard case and whether it would be applied to FIDIC’s Yellow Book contracts.
The substance of this provision was already in Sub-Clause 17.6 in the 1999 edition and has now been separated from other provisions dealing with Risk and Responsibility. As before it generally exempts parties from liability to the other for “loss of use of any Works, loss of profit, loss of any contract or any indirect or consequential loss” except in respect of a list of identified Sub-Clauses. The list has been extended and several of the changes are very significant. It also limits liability to certain levels in some circumstances. Finally, it excludes parties from cover by the exemption and limits in certain circumstances. All three elements have changed.
Sub-Clause 17.6 of FIDIC’s Red, Yellow and Silver Book is an exemption clause and provides in the opening paragraph that: “Neither Party shall be liable to the other Party for loss of use of any Works, loss of profit, loss of any contract or for any indirect or consequential loss or damage which may be suffered by the other Party in connection with the Contract…” The phrase ‘indirect or consequential loss or damage’ has been examined by the English courts on numerous occasions. Historically the words ‘consequential loss’ were held to be synonymous with ‘indirect loss’. However, a recent case questions whether this will be correct in all cases.
English law recognises different types of mistake and permits various equitable remedies in case of mistake, as illustrated by the two English court decisions examined in this article.
Whilst it is widely understood that the law on liquidated damages differs considerably between common law and civil law jurisdictions, there are also differences within common law jurisdictions which are sometimes overlooked. This article summarises the recent developments to the law on penalties in England and Wales, as reported by Steve Mangan in May 2016, and compares them with the developments to the law on penalties in Australia.
Two decades ago, unjust enrichment was described as “the Cinderella of law, barely 10 years old but growing up rapidly. Until recently unrecognised and overshadowed by the ugly sisters, Contract and Tort, Cinderella’s day has arrived.” In England a claim for unjust enrichment was initially referred to as a claim in ‘quasi contract’. This language has now been abandoned and unjust enrichment has a strong foothold in the landscape of commercial law and its role and limits are becoming more clearly defined. Despite this, it is only infrequently pleaded in construction cases and when argued it is often set out in broad terms where the facts do not support such a claim. However, this is cause of action that should not be overlooked by a contractor or employer – especially if they have claims that fall outside the four corners of their construction contract.
Earlier this year, the English High Court considered a heavily amended FIDIC Yellow Book 1999. Whilst the case is specific to the particular contractual amendments it is worth review. The case is J Murphy & Sons Ltd v Beckton Energy Ltd. It proceeded in court and on an expedited basis as a matter of some urgency because a bond was about to be called for non-payment of delay damages. The Contractor claimed the call would affect his commercial reputation, standing and creditworthiness, and may well need to be disclosed in future tenders. He had not paid the delay damages because there had been no agreement or determination of the entitlement to such by the Engineer under Sub-Clauses 2.5 and 3.5.
A penalty is now to be regarded as: “a secondary obligation which imposes a detriment on the contract-breaker out of all proportion to any legitimate interest of the innocent party in the enforcement of the primary obligation.” The UK Supreme Court has reviewed the English law of penalties and re-formulated the test in a landmark judgment on two unrelated appeals heard together: (1) Cavendish Square Holding BV – v – Talal El Makdessi (“Cavendish”); and (2) ParkingEye Ltd – v – Beavis ("Beavis").
There have been two High Court cases within the last 15 months that lift the lid off what some perceive to be questionable practices (particularly in relation to the Eurocom case) that have developed over the last few years in the world of adjudication and arbitration in the UK. The first, in November 2014, was a decision of Ramsey J sitting in the Technology and Construction Court in Eurocom v Siemens PLC and the second, which is the focus of this article, was a decision of Hamblen J, in the Commercial Court in Cofely Limited v Anthony Bingham and Knowles Limited. Both of these cases illustrate the lengths to which some parties will go to steer the nomination process in order to secure the tribunal of their choice. Some view these practices as innocent forum shopping; others see them as tantamount to forum shop-lifting. What is becoming increasingly clear is that these practices have become by no means exceptional or even unusual. Hopefully the outcome of these cases will act as a real deterrent to these practices in the future.
Articles on Arbitration The Need For Reasons - O, Reason
How long do you have to challenge an adjudicator’s decision? Controversially, the English Supreme Court has now ruled as follows: If you were the loser and required to pay monies, you will have the full limitation period, typically six years, to bring your claim to recover those monies starting from when you were required to make payment to the winner; whereas If you were the winner, your right to seek an improvement of the result will come to an end at the same time as the limitation period for the original claim.