Page last updated at 19:11 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 20:11 UK

Firms criticised over Wembley row

Wembley stadium
Cleveland Bridge built the stadium's massive steel arch

A Darlington-based steel contractor and a building firm have been criticised for not reaching an earlier settlement in what became a bitter legal dispute.

The High Court had earlier ruled that Cleveland Bridge was in breach of contract after walking off the Wembley Stadium project in August 2004.

Multiplex Construction secured a 6m judgement against the sub-contractor.

However, the Australian-owned firm also sought damages and the ensuing court battle led to legal costs put at 22m.

1m photocopying bill

Despite winning the case, Multiplex now faces a 10m legal bill after the judge found against it on some points.

Two years ago the two sides were urged to reach agreement through mediation, but the dispute continued, with each side fielding a team of experts, solicitors, leading counsel and two or three junior counsel.

There were two rounds of preliminary issues, two trips to the Court of Appeal, various amendments to the pleadings and finally a three-month trial of valuation and damages issues.

Each party has thrown away golden opportunities to settle this litigation upon favourable terms

Mr Justice Jackson

The cost of photocopying alone was estimated at 1m.

Sitting at the Technology and Construction Court, Mr Justice Jackson said at the end of his final 200-page judgment on Monday: "All thoughts of reaching a sensible settlement were seemingly jettisoned.

"The final result of this litigation is such that (when costs are taken into account) neither party has gained any significant financial benefit.

"Instead large sums of costs and a large amount of management time have been expended on both sides to no useful purpose."

He said that both parties had a measure of responsibility for the situation.

"Over the last two years both parties have brushed aside repeated judicial observations on the wisdom of settling this particular litigation," he added.

"Each party has thrown away golden opportunities to settle this litigation upon favourable terms.

"The lesson for the future which may be drawn from this litigation is that parties would be well advised to use the dispute resolution service offered by the Technology and Construction Court in a more conventional and commercial manner than has been adopted in this case."

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Find out more about the two sides

Wembley firm 'will seek damages'
06 Jun 06 |  Business
Wembley builders in court battle
25 Apr 06 |  Business

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