The Annual Report of the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) has been published, covering the period 1 October 2019 to 30 September 2020.
The TCC deals primarily with litigation of disputes arising in the field of technology and construction, and increasingly procurement claims. This includes traditional building cases, adjudication enforcement, engineering disputes, claims for professional negligence and challenges to arbitrators’ decisions.
Adjudication enforcement and construction disputes accounted for the majority of cases during the reporting period.
There were 482 new claims brought in the London TCC from October 2019 to September 2020. This represents a decrease of 18% from the previous year, where 571 new claims were registered. There are also TCC centres outside London, as part of the Business and Property Courts
48 adjudication enforcement claims were transferred to the Central London Centre. In deciding whether to transfer the claim, the TCC considered the value of the claim (was it under £1 million?) and the complexity of the dispute. The purpose was to advance the hearing date and to use the High Court judges' time more efficiently.
113 trials were listed during the year, of which only 36 were eventually contested: the majority of cases settled before trial. TCC judges encourage parties to consider mediation either to settle or to narrow their disputes
Most cases that do go to fully contested trials are resolved in less than about 12-18 months, while adjudication enforcement cases are dealt with speedily under a highly abridged timetable.
Global pandemic: Covid-19
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, trials and hearings were conducted remotely (with some hybrid arrangements). Court staff and users indicated an overall positive response to the transition. Consequently, although a return to in-person hearings is expected for trials and other substantial matters as social restrictions are lifted, the report notes that it is likely that some remote working will be retained for shorter hearings, such as adjudication enforcement.
A working group was set up in 2019 to review and revise the current TCC Guide under the chair of Mrs Justice Jefford. Last year's report indicated hopes for an updated version to be issued in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic brought other challenges, resulting in delay to production of the guide. It is hoped an updated version will be issued later this year.
In recent years the court has seen an increasing number of disputes which require technical input or which it is appropriate for the court to deal with because of familiarity with the subject matter, including complex computer and IT infrastructure disputes and renewable energy disputes. Following the Grenfell Tower fire, there has been a steady increase in cases concerning flammable cladding and other materials, together with more general fire protection issues.