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Claims in the TCC

Jeremy Speller considers West County Renovations Ltd v McDowell which is an important case for anyone involved in issuing claims at the TCC. In giving judgment in this case, Akenhead J also gave guidance as to the type of claims which can be heard at High Court level in the TCC.

Introduction

The case of the West County Renovations Ltd v McDowell [2012] EWHC 307 (TCC) provides useful guidance as to the correct approach to be taken by the Technology & Construction Court (“TCC”) in relation to the inter-court transfer of low value claims. All claims issued in the TCC with a value of less than £250,000 and which are not subject to specific exclusion, should be transferred to designated judges at the Central London County Court or other appropriate County Court at the first Case Management Conference (“CMC”).

Background facts

The Claimant builders, West Country Renovations Ltd were engaged by the Defendants Mr and Mrs McDowell to carry out work on a residential property. At the conclusion of the project works, a dispute arose regarding payment of the Claimant’s final account, in the sum of £104,473.14 plus interest. The Claimant subsequently issued proceedings to recover the balance of their final account in the TCC.

At the first CMC, the presiding Judge raised the issue of whether the case should be transferred to the County Court. Both parties objected, on the basis that they wished to have the dispute resolved efficiently taking into account the TCC’s case management practices and the availability of an early trial date.

Decision

Whereas a Claimant can issue a claim in any Court, if an inappropriate forum is selected, the Court may of its own motion or by way of application transfer the case.

In relation to a claim issued in the TCC with a value of less than £250,000, the court clarified that these should generally be commenced in the County Courts or other High Court centres outside London which have TCC-designated judges.

However, the above general rule was made subject to a number of specific exceptions allowing for low value cases to be accommodated as High Court business within the TCC. Those exceptions are:

  • Cases involving adjudications, which could be issued in the High Court irrespective of the amount in dispute;
  • International cases i.e. parties non-resident in the United Kingdom or cases involving foreign projects / developments as TCC High Court judges are more experienced in cases with an international element;
  • Cases involving new and / or difficult points of law or issues of technical complexity;
  •  Any test case, for example a case which would likely be joined by other parties where similar issues were being raised;
  • Public procurement cases;
  • CPR Part 8 and other claims for declarations;
  • Complex nuisance claims brought by a number of parties;
  • Claims for injunctions;
  • Any other case where there was good reason or where the claim could not be dealt with readily or effectively in a County Court or Civil Justice Centre by a designated TCC judge.

In cases where none of the above exceptions apply, the Court held that low value claims would normally be transferred at the first CMC to the Central London County Court where there are three designated TCC judges. However, any other more convenient County Court would also be considered.

In the instant case, the Court found that it was a low value standard final account type dispute with issues about proof of cost, recoverability, and the reasonableness of rates / applicability of a possible cap on costs. The Court decided that this case had little importance to the general public and that it did not fall within any of the above exceptions, and as such should be transferred to the Central London County Court.

Commentary

Since 2004, the work of the TCC in London has increased by around 75%. This decision is intended to avoid the risk that there will be insufficient TCC Judges to deal with the increased business. The Court was also concerned that progress made in the efficient management of TCC claims might be prejudiced by any requirement on TCC High Court Judges to handle an excessive number of low-value claims.

As a result of this case, any low value case now brought incorrectly in the TCC in the hope of benefiting from enhanced case management powers or quicker trial dates, will likely be delayed further by the need to transfer the case elsewhere.

Contact

For further information contact Jeremy Speller at Jeremy.Speller@dwffishburns.co.uk

By Jeremy Speller

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This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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