There exist a number of pre-action protocols, the purpose of which is to speed up the legal process by identifying areas of agreement between the claimant and defendant and to reach agreement wherever possible before formal court proceedings commence. Very often, the use of the protocols means that the dispute is settled without a court hearing being necessary. This saves time and costs for all, so the courts are very keen for people in dispute to make use of the pre-action protocols to the maximum extent possible.
Recently, a firm of consulting engineers wished to bring a claim against a Hospital Trust. The relevant construction industry protocol required them to write to the Trust, setting out why they considered they were owed money and inviting agreement or disagreement. The next step would then be a meeting to progress matters. The engineers sent a very sketchy letter, with little information regarding why the sum was believed to be owing. The Trust requested more information, but this was not supplied and legal proceedings were commenced.
In court, the judge, Lord Jackson, took a dim view of the actions of the firm of consulting engineers and stopped the proceedings so that the pre-action protocol could be followed. He also ordered them to pay the legal costs of the NHS Trust.
If you have a construction dispute, you should always ensure you adhere to the pre-action protocol. Failing to do so can be costly and can prolong the time it takes to resolve the matter.