St. Austell Printing Co. Ltd v Dawnus Construction Holdings Ltd
Citation:  EWHC 96 (TCC)
The owner, St. Austell, engaged the contractor, Dawnus, to design and construct industrial units in Cornwall, using the JCT With Contractor Design form of contract. On receiving no payment in response to a claim for interim payment, Dawnus referred the matter to adjudication and the adjudicator decided that Dawnus was owed some £417,000. St. Austell applied for a declaration, pre-empting enforcement proceedings, to the effect the adjudicator lacked jurisdiction to award Dawnus payment because Dawnus had chosen to refer only part of the items included in the application for interim payment to adjudication.
The application was unsuccessful. In dealing with an argument on crystallisation which had been made in adjudication but not in court the judge stated that the crystallisation argument “is almost never successful”. This was because “crystallisation may require no more than the service of a claim by the claiming party and subsequent inactivity for a further short period by the responding party.”
On the jurisdictional challenge on which St Austell relied in court the judge held that it was a matter of authority that a claimant is entitled “to prune his original claim for the purposes of his reference to adjudication” and that in its response to such a claim the responding party was entitled to rely upon all matters which it was open to it to rely upon as a defence. The responding party was not limited to those matters which the referring party had chosen to refer to adjudication.