specialistI sit on a number of groups on a pro bono basis, including one that is presently looking at the feasibility of a specialist construction list in the South Australian courts.

For someone who has experience of jurisdictions where there is a specialist construction Court or list, the notion of construction cases been dealt with by generalist judges, who might hear criminal cases, or matrimonial cases, or probate cases as well as construction cases, is a strange one. The concept of a judge as a “gifted amateur” who is able to turn his or her hand to any area of the law has very largely, around the world, been overtaken by a demand for greater professionalism, which in turn, requires greater specialism.

There are numerous reasons why specialist courts tend to be significantly more efficient than generalist courts in the area of construction law. Some of these reasons are obvious; others Continue reading

Formerly formal

DarwinThe last time I was in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in Darwin, which was a year or so ago, both I and my opposing counsel dressed up like 16th century clerics, with gowns, tabs et cetera. Which seemed a bit weird, bearing in mind Darwin’s notoriously informal attitude to dress.
Last week I was there again, again with Alistair Whyvill SC as my opponent, but this time the rules have been relaxed, the dress code was shirt sleeves. I have to confess that Continue reading

The End of the Yellow Brick Road

YELLOW BRICK ROADOne might think, after all of this time, that every issue capable of arising in construction law has already arisen, and been the subject of some sort of judicial guidance. But no, there always seems to be room for a question which has never arisen before, and such a question has recently been on my desk.

It is this: does the existence of a Ruxley defect stand in the way of practical completion?

The decision of the House of Lords in Ruxley v Forsyth [1995] 3 All ER 268; 73 BLR 1 is of course concerned with damages rather than completion. The facts of the case are now well-known; the contractor was building a swimming pool for the owner, and the depth of the swimming pool Continue reading

Winning Slow

Sometimes the laslothw acts quickly, and sometimes excruciatingly slowly. I was asked by my chambers in London, Keating Chambers, the other day to approve a summary of the decision of the Supreme Court in Northern Territory in Department of Construction and Infrastructure v Urban and Rural Contracting Pty Ltd [2012] NTSC 22. I was counsel for the contractor who had applied for and got an adjudicator’s determination in its favour, and I won on the day, and in the long run. In the meantime, the reported decision would suggest that I had lost.

Here is how it all happened. Continue reading