Does Qatar need a global construction claims law?

Although Qatar’s Civil Code does not include ‘global claims’ as an independent concept, construction firms can find respite in some of its terms and articles

Pamela McDonald works as a construction lawyer for Pinsent Masons, and practises at the legal outfit’s Qatar offices.
Pamela McDonald works as a construction lawyer for Pinsent Masons, and practises at the legal outfit’s Qatar offices.

The term ‘global claim’ does not hold a specific legal or contractual meaning in Qatar as it does in some other jurisdictions. For instance in the UK, over a period of time, construction courts have developed – through a series of detailed judgments – a comprehensive understanding of what constitutes a global claim and whether such claims are permissible.

Keating on Construction Contracts defines global claims as those where “the claimant does not seek to attribute specific loss or delay to a specific breach or event, but rather alleges a global or composite loss allegedly the result of the breaches or events relied upon”. The Society of Construction Law’s Delay and Disruption Protocol notes that such claims, which do not substantiate the cause and effect, are discouraged and rarely accepted by the courts.

In Qatar, whether a global claim will be successful will depend on the court or arbitrator’s interpretation of the Civil and Procedural Codes. Contracts in the Gulf state are governed by Law No 22 of 2004, known as the ‘Civil Code’. This piece of legislation contains 1,186 articles, as well as rules which apply to all elements of contractual relationships, including parties’ rights and obligations in certain circumstances, compensation, liability, and so on.

Qatar’s Civil Code makes no mention of the phrase ‘global claim’. However, Article 263 of the law, which relates to the payment of compensation, states: “Compensation shall include the loss sustained by the creditor and the profit that he lost, provided the same is a natural result of the non-performance or the delay in performance. Damage shall be deemed a natural result if the creditor was not able to avoid it by exerting reasonable effort.”

Therefore, in order to persuade a judge or arbitrator applying the Civil Code that the amount of compensation claimed is valid, the claimant must show that it was a natural result of the event giving rise to the claim and could not have been avoided by exerting reasonable effort.

This requires some level of detail to be given in relation to the compensation claimed, including demonstrating that the compensation claimed represents a loss – including lost profit – that was caused by the defendant.

A global claim for compensation, therefore, may be resisted on the basis that it fails to demonstrate causation.

The following three articles of the Procedural Code may be relevant in determining whether global claims can be pursued as a matter of Qatari law.

Article 126 provides that “the judgment shall include its grounds, otherwise it shall be null and void”. It adds: “The lack of the factual reasoning of the judgment and defects or mistakes, which lead to non-identification of the parties or their titles or the judges who participated in the issuance of the judgment, shall render the judgment null and void.”

Articles 211 and 212, which are found in Book 2 of the Procedural Code, relate to evidence, and state: “211. The creditor shall prove the existence of liability while the debtor shall disprove liability thereof.

“212. The statements to be proven shall be relevant to the claim and be produced therein and be acceptable.”

There exists a lack of Qatari case reports that deal with the concept of ‘global claims’, or which discuss the concept of global compensation in some other form.

Neither is there a formal system of court reporting of judicial decisions or translation of the judgments from Arabic to English.

Qatar’s laws do not expressly prevent a claimant from requesting a lump-sum amount of compensation by way of damages without breaking down the claim to show causation and loss referable to individual events. The articles described above indicate there is scope to resist claims of this nature if their presentation does not enable the decision maker to identify factual reasons for reaching his decision.

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