Co-op considers compensation claim over judge's mistakes in its dispute with Fujitsu

The Co-operative Group is considering making a compensation claim of up to £1m against the courts, after mistakes by a judge...

The Co-operative Group is considering making a compensation claim of up to £1m against the courts, after mistakes by a judge forced it to take an £11m claim against supplier Fujitsu Services to a retrial.

The Co-op has approached lawyers representing Fujitsu Services to suggest that the firms collaborate to recover the costs of a five-week trial that appeal court judges ruled had been mishandled by a senior technology judge.

Nick Eyre, group secretary of the Co-op, which went to appeal after losing to Fujitsu in the first round, said,"We have both been the victims of unfairness in the process. We have both incurred significant costs yet need to start the process again. We are considering our position vis a vis the Lord Chancellors Department."

Fujitsu declined to comment.

The dispute centres on a point of sale project to underpin the merger of two rival Co-op firms into a chain of 1,100 stores. The combined legal costs of the case are estimated to be more than £3m.

Lawyers for the Co-op are investigating the legal precedents and are considering a claim under the Human Rights Act, which guarantees the right of a fair trail.

The case aroused controversy after original trial judge Richard Seymour accused Co-op IT staff of lying in court to support their case. That claim was questioned by the appeal court, which ruled that the judge's "objective vision" had been distorted.

The Co-op's proposals are likely to raise further questions about the effectiveness of the Technology and Construction Court.

The court, formed in 1998, employs specialist judges with IT experience to handle complex technical and contractual cases.

Dai Davis, IT lawyer at Nabarro Nathanson, said, "The court has been subject of severe criticism about whether it has the requisite skills. The Co-op case has opened up a debate as to whether it is up to the job."

Davis said a claim from the Co-op would be met with stiff resistance from the legal authorities because judges would want to avoid opening the flood gates for other compensation claims.

News of the Co-op's plans emerged after the House of Lords turned down a petition from Fujitsu to appeal against the retrial on the grounds that it would raise no matters of general public importance.

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