June 28, 2018

Dispute over multi-million pound dream home reaches the High Court

News Article

A protracted multi-million pound dispute between the owners of a self-build home and their project manager and quantity surveyor, has been heard in the High Court.

Property financier Stuart Russell and his wife Naomi claim they had originally planned to spend approximately £2 million on a custom-built new home in Highgate, London.

The work had originally been estimated to take less than a year to complete, but a series of disputes led to contractors walking off the job, meaning that the project took ten years to complete, with costs escalating to £5 million.

The Russells claim that the majority of the problems were caused by their project manager and quantity surveyor – husband and wife team, Peter and Linda Stone – who acted as advisors between 2008 and 2012.

In Court, Mr Russell accused the Stones of a number of “failures” and a lack of forethought which “caused them to spend significantly more on their property.”

However, the Stones claimed that the Russells wasted both time and money, due to their indecisiveness when choosing interior details such as door handles and toilet roll holders.

Following a walkout by builders in February 2012, the Stones ended their association with the project, which was finally completed in 2018, but over budget to the tune of £3 million.

The dispute centres on the Stones’ alleged failure to carry out their project manager, contract administrator and quantity surveying roles, with £1.8 million compensation sought by the plaintiffs.

However, Lynne McCafferty QC, acting on behalf of Mr and Mrs Stone, who are counter-claiming for £20,000 in unpaid fees, told the court that they disputed the allegations made against them and instead argued that the blame rested with their clients, Mr and Mrs Russell.

She alleged that her clients “warned Mr and Mrs Russell time and time again about the imperative to make timely design decisions and of the consequences of their failure to do so.”

She added: “They chose to ignore that advice at the time and, all these years on, still seem unable to understand those consequences.”

The court hearing has now adjourned and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Adam Davis, a Partner with Palmers who specialises in Construction disputes, said: “We await the court’s judgment with interest but, in the meantime, the general advice -for any parties involved with construction contracts, who wish to avoid protracted and costly litigation – is to consider using Adjudication as a means of resolving construction disputes.

“It is fundamental, at the outset, for a party to have in place a dispute strategy and also ensure that its resources are properly channelled to obtain a quick resolution.

“This includes the selection of experienced representatives and experts for the adjudication, who will be responsive and keen for matters to be resolved proactively, as quickly as possible and with an agile and commercial approach.”

For advice on all aspects of construction contracts including disputes and the adjudication process, please contact us.