The Road from Wembley

By | 12th August 2009
Almost everybody has heard of the protracted litigation between Multiplex and various parties arising out of the construction of the new National Stadium at Wembley.  Amongst those disputes the largest, and most publicised, was that between Multiplex and its steelwork sub-contractor, Cleveland Bridge (CB).

Less well known are the 6 paragraphs (out of a total of 1693!) in a judgment given towards the end of last year in yet another Multiplex/CB case (no. 6) and entitled “The Lesson to be drawn from this Litigation”…

In those paragraphs the Judge criticised the parties’ failure to resolve the matter through ADR or other means.  He particularly pointed to the 550 ring files which were produced for the Court, the £1m photocopying bill and the total costs of the parties of some £14M which were wholly disproportionate to the amounts realised. 

He ended by saying that “the parties might be well advised to use the dispute resolution service offered by the [TCC] in a more conventional and commercial manner than has been adopted in this case.”   He might also have added that the parties would have saved themselves very considerable cost if they had used the latest cost-reducing e-Discovery services from vendors such as Millnet.

Millnet’s system is based on the premise that clients should not have to pay their lawyers to process material which they do not need and offer e-Discovery at substantially lower and more proportionate cost than existing methods. In a recent case, around 4.5 terabytes of data were reduced to less than a gigabyte for eventual disclosure. The speed of this process means  that the lawyers can start their review much earlier than before, often in a matter of hours, confident in the knowledge that they are only looking at material which they actually need to review. 

When all is said and done the National Stadium is an iconic building whose 315m span arch is not only the longest single span roof structure in the world but also is visible from many miles away.  It is a pity, therefore, to reflect that just as much paper was used in the disputes relating to the stadium as cement poured into construction.  Perhaps both the experience of the Multiplex litigation and the Judge’s words of advice may lead parties to re-think how disputes are handled in the future. 

[This post is an edited version of a longer article co-written by Charles Holloway and Julian Holloway.   Julian Holloway is a partner at law firm Speechly Bircham].