London-based practice Collett and Farmer has secured a convincing victory in the High Court - ending an extraordinary three-year legal struggle to recover unpaid fees.
The firm was awarded £15,000, plus costs, which a client had failed to pay up following a dispute over the refurbishment of a Grade II*-listed Georgian hall in Bengeo, Hertfordshire.
Collett and Farmer had originally won an adjudication over the disagreement, which started in April 2003 when the client refused to settle a final demand for its services.
However, when the practice tried to enforce the adjudication, the client raised his own claim for £600,000 in the Technology and Construction Court division of the High Court alleging negligence by Collett and Farmer.
The client's claim, which was joined together with the practice's action, centred around a 'letter of intent', which the client claimed was inappropriate 'in light of matters to be agreed'.
The judge threw out all the client's heads of claim, and stated that in the circumstances the letter of intent was not premature and although 'used too often in the construction industry' they were a necessary evil.
An in-depth analysis of this case appears in this week's AJ (AJ 07.09.06). by Richard Waite