SITA appeal over GMWDA case reaches High Court

By Nick Mann 

SITA UK's attempt to overturn a March 2010 ruling which prevented it from launching a £92 million damages claim regarding the procurement of the Greater Manchester waste PFI reached London's High Court yesterday (December 14).

On the first day of a hearing which is scheduled to last two days, Michael Bowsher QC, acting on behalf of SITA UK, began outlining the reasons why the decision to prevent the company's damages bid from reaching trial was wrong.

The hearing at London's Royal Courts of Justice is expected to last for two days
The hearing at London’s Royal Courts of Justice is expected to last for two days
SITA UK was named as reserve bidder for the £4 billion contract in January 2007 by the Greater Waste Management Disposal Authority, which went on to formally award the deal to Viridor Laing.

SITA UK brought its original legal action in August 2009 on the basis that when preferred bidder Viridor Laing's costs rose and the project changed significantly, it should have been able to resubmit its own bid (see letsrecycle.com story).

This was countered by the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority, which sought to strike out SITA UK's bid for damages on the grounds that it had been launched too late to proceed to a full trial.

Following a four-day hearing in London's High Court in February 2010, this claim was upheld by Justice Mann, who concluded that the company's legal action was lodged outside the three-month limitation period set by UK contract law and there was no reason to extend that period for the claim (see letsrecycle.com story).

But, in court yesterday, Mr Bowsher reiterated SITA UK's belief that it had not had sufficient information to launch its claim until after the deal was signed between the GMWDA and Viridor Laing in April 2009.

“The authority failed to tell my client facts it should have been told,” he said, adding: “My client was involved in a very large tender process and was entitled to be treated to fairly.”

Correspondence

Claiming Mr Justice Mann had “gone wrong in a number of respects”, he referred in particular to the correspondence that had passed between SITA and the Authority in the period before the contract was signed, when it had asked for more information about the deal.

“If what he is saying is because we think we're owed an explanation that means we know about it then he's wrong,” he said.

And, in relation to Mr Justice Mann's decision to strike out SITA UK's application, he said: “The judge was wrong on his determination on limitation. It is a matter for trial, he was wrong to deal with it as strikeout.”

While the High Court hearing, which is being held before three judges – Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Rimer – is expected to conclude this week, the complexity of the case means that a judgement is not expected until the New Year.

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