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Just Because a Debt is Small...

Many people think that the costs and difficulty of litigation mean that it is not worth pursuing relatively small debts. However, a High Court case in which a carpenter won the right to be paid for his work on a building project showed how wrong that assumption is.

The carpenter carried out the work for a building company under the terms of an oral contract and, when the company failed to pay what was due to him, he referred the matter to an adjudicator. The adjudicator found in his favour and ordered the company to pay him £3,850. It was also directed to pay the adjudicator's £3,805 fees.

After the company still failed to pay, the carpenter's lawyers launched enforcement proceedings on his behalf. In granting summary judgment against the company, the Court rejected claims that the adjudicator lacked jurisdiction to consider the dispute. Allegations that the adjudicator was biased or had otherwise acted improperly were also dismissed as wholly unsubstantiated.

Given the relatively small amount of the debt, the Court praised sensible steps taken by the carpenter's lawyers to minimise both the length and the costs of the proceedings. The ruling gave the adjudicator's decision the status of a court judgment, enabling it to be enforced as such.

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