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By John McGuinness

Tenders -- agreement -- Subcontractors chosen through a 3rd celebration -- Programming of the Subcontract paintings -- employer and administration of the Subcontract -- layout improvement -- directions and diversifications -- Valuation of the Works -- cost -- finishing touch -- Breach of agreement -- decision of the Subcontract -- Damages -- Sub-subcontracts -- Works Contracts lower than administration Contracting preparations -- The felony process -- Dispute answer -- Adjudication -- Statutes

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In the case of Harvey Shopfitters Ltd v. ADI Ltd (6 March 2003, unreported), Mr Recorder John Uff QC had to consider the effect of a letter of intent which had requested the recipient contractor to sign and return a copy of the letter by the words, ‘If you are agreeable to the foregoing please sign the enclosed copy of this letter and return it to me’. The contractor did so, but both the date of the letter and its return were after the actual on-site start date. ’ Inevitably with letters of intent, which are normally written in haste without indepth consideration, the words may be ambiguous and their meaning uncertain.

Further difficulties can arise where the subcontract is let under a design and build contract and the contractor has the job of completing the design produced by the employer’s design consultants. During the design development it may be found that components have been underdesigned or that a saving made in one element leads to increased costs in another. Similarly, coordination of different elements such as services may require a change in a component size or in its routing through the building.

It was argued that the conduct of Chichester thereafter in preparing for manufacture of the joinery constituted an acceptance. If this submission had been open to Mowlem on the pleadings, I would have had no hesitation in rejecting the argument on two quite separate grounds. First, the terms of their Purchase Order only contemplated two forms of Contract 23 acceptance: (1) written acceptance; (2) delivery and acceptance of the goods. Further, the evidence falls far short of that necessary to establish acceptance by conduct.

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