Court rules on dispute between Bouygues subcontractors 

The High Court has ordered a tier two contractor to pay £102,000 to a plumbing subcontractor following a dispute about works on a Bouygues-led university project in West Sussex. 

Mechanical, electrical and plumbing subcontractor J&B Hopkins was appointed by Bouygues as the subcontractor for the University of Brighton’s Moulsecoomb Campus project in November 2019. The student accommodation project, featuring two podiums and five towers, was completed in late 2021. 

J&B Hopkins hired A&V Building Solution Ltd to carry out plumbing works on towers one, two and three and both podiums. Materials were supplied by J&B Hopkins, with the labour-only sub-subcontract worth £447,800. 

However, A&V left the project in March 2021, when its subcontract works were incomplete, according to the judgement.

The companies have since been arguing about how much they owe each other, based on disputed sums for value of completed work; losses suffered by A&V before it left the project; and the financial consequences of its departure. 

Now Justice Roger ter Haar KC, a judge at the Construction and Technology Court, has ruled that A&V is owed £101,542 by its former employer, after assessing a range of issues, costs and counterclaims.

Ter Haar ultimately found that J&B Hopkins was “in repudiatory breach of subcontract” for removing its subcontractor from iAuditor inspection software. He also found that A&V was not in breach of contract by leaving the site ahead of completed works.

The judge considered the extent to which several works, such as installation of material outruns and risers, were complete, ruling on substantial disagreements between the firms.

A&V claimed some work packages were 80 per cent complete – and that they should be paid for 80 per cent of the agreed sum for the job – while Hopkins said 10 per cent was the correct figure for completeness and payment. 

The judge also dismissed a £6,000 counterclaim by J&B Hopkins over an allegation that copper was stolen by A&V’s workers. 

“It is undoubtedly the case that one of A&V’s plumbers was caught red-handed trying to steal copper. However, that attempt failed,” the judge said. 

“Understandably, J&B Hopkins is suspicious that this might have been but one instance in a series of thefts. Unfortunately for J&B Hopkins, […it] is unable to accurately identify the value of all copper and other materials taken by A&V’s operatives.”

The judge also dismissed a claim by A&V that it was owed compensation for loss of business opportunity as a result of alleged difficulties created by J&B Hopkins. 

“A&V did make efforts to win fresh work but was generally unsuccessful,” he said. 

“It is probably the case that A&V suffered significant problems because it had put all its eggs in the J&B Hopkins basket which perhaps inevitably would cause problems if that relationship got into difficulties, as it did.”

Ter Haar concluded that A&V is due a total of £466,452.81 for its work on the project including variations, as well as a loss of profit. As it has already been paid £364,909.64, the amount owed is £101,543.17. 

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