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Fiona Sinclair QC

Construction & Engineering

Shortlisted for Chambers & Partners Construction Silk of the Year 2015 (result to be announced on 27 October 2015).

Technically brilliant and a real star, Fiona Sinclair QC provides “excellent analysis of the issues” as well as “focus on the big picture” (Legal 500 2015)

"She is able to change the way judges see the case." "She is a team player." (Chambers & Partners 2016)

“Truly first-rate” and “a joy to behold on paper” (Legal 500 2014)

“Judges listen to everything she says”, “A dream to work with – she’s committed, gets her hands dirty, is not afraid of detail and is very well liked by clients” and “She has a great reputation for her construction-related professional negligence work and is many solicitors' first choice for cases in that area” (Chambers & Partners 2014)

“Very good at making complex issues understandable” and “very bright, very persuasive and very amiable”, Fiona has “notable expertise in financial and construction disputes”, and is “controlled, thorough and resilient” (Chambers & Partners 2015)

Fiona is among the select number of UK barristers who are ranked as international leaders in this field. She has “a wealth of experience in professional liability matters” (Chambers Global 2015: Construction)

Before taking silk in 2013, Fiona was awarded Chambers & Partners’ Construction Junior of the Year 2012.

Fiona has extensive experience of very substantial construction and engineering disputes, often with international aspects and typically involving complex technical evidence. In the last 2 years, in addition to her heavyweight advisory, arbitration and adjudication practice, Fiona has appeared on no fewer than 14 significant decisions in the Technology & Construction Court, on 4 appeals to the Court of Appeal and led for the respondents in the first ever case on construction adjudication to reach the Supreme Court.

Her recent and current cases in this area include:

  • Defending asbestos surveyors in landmark litigation concerning the interface between construction adjudication under HCGRA and the law of limitation. Fiona won victory for her clients in the Court of Appeal in Aspect Contracts (Asbestos) Ltd v Higgins Construction plc [2013] EWCA Civ 1541. In early 2015, Fiona defended the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Supreme Court. Her clients succeeded on all issues and the appeal was dismissed: Aspect Contracts (Asbestos) Ltd v Higgins Construction plc [2015] UKSC 38.
  • Advising international investors in connection with a SE Asian bridge-building programme.
  • Advising the EPC contractor in a dispute concerning the development of an oil field in Abu Dhabi.
  • Advising an EPC contractor in a dispute arising out of the development of a water-treatment facility in the UK.
  • Acting for a US building contractor in an international arbitration concerning the redevelopment of a Caribbean island.
  • Acting for the architects in major litigation concerning the Broadway Plaza leisure, commercial and residential development. The litigation is listed for trial in January 2016 but has already given rise to three important decisions on costs management and amendment of pleadings: CIP Properties (AIPT) Ltd v Galliford Try Infrastructure Ltd & Ors [2014] EWHC 3546 (TCC), [2015] EWHC 481 (TCC) and [2015] EWHC 1345 (TCC).  
  • Acting in litigation then adjudication for the claimant city council in a dispute concerning feed-in tariffs and the installation of a solar energy plant. The dispute led to the definitive judgment on the interpretation of the dispute resolution procedures in FIDIC contracts: Peterborough City Council v Enterprise Managed Services Ltd [2014] EWHC 3193 (TCC).
  • Acting for solicitors in multi-claimant, multi-defendant litigation arising out of defects in three apartment blocks: Rendlesham Estates Plc v Barr Ltd [2014] EWHC 3968 (TCC).  The multiplicity of parties on each side of the dispute created unusual procedural challenges. 
  • Acting for an M&E main contractor with claims on against professionals and sub-contractors (6 parties)  following catastrophic floods at a residential development at Greenwich procured in circumstances which the Judge described as “death by subcontracting”: Greenwich Millennium Village Ltd v Essex Services Group plc (and Others) [2013] EWHC 3059 (TCC). The aftermath included the resolution of complex issues of principle on costs and Part 36 offers: [2014] EWHC 1099 (TCC).
  • Acting for a main D&B contractor with claims on against professionals and sub-contractors in major litigation concerning the development of a warehouse/distribution centre: Co-operative Group Ltd v Birse Developments Ltd (and Others) [2012] EWHC 3060 (TCC), [2013] EWCA Civ 474, [2013] EWHC 1790 (TCC), [2013] EWHC 3100 (TCC), [2013] 3145 (TCC), [2013] 3352 (TCC). The case has just seen its 2nd visit to the Court of Appeal, and a 3rd is listed for June 2014.
  • Acting for a main D&B contractor in a claim on against architects following a major fire at a designer shopping outlet: BMG (Mansfield) Ltd v (1) Galliford Try Construction Ltd (2) Aedas Architects Ltd [2013] EWHC 3183 (TCC) and [2013] EWHC 3468 (TCC)
  • Advising a main D&B contractor on a claim against structural engineers following the collapse of a tower crane, causing extensive property damage.
  • Acting for an international property developer/joint venturer in a £20M dispute concerning a major new London hotel.
  • Defending structural engineers in a multi-party claim concerning a large industrial warehouse floor. Technical issues included the adequacy of piling; legal issues included a sub-contractor’s duty of care to prevent economic loss (complex structure theory).
  • Defending the main fit-out contractor against a £10+M claim arising from a diesel oil spill at Bankside, London SW1. The 10-party litigation (Mayor & City of London v Lend Lease Construction (UK) Ltd and others) involved Fiona’s client in a complex web of claims and cross claims, and difficult issues of causation and responsibility.
  • Acting for the main D&B contractor in £20M claims arising from the collapse of a tower crane.
  • Defending the main contractor in an arbitration concerning the collapse of concrete sewage tanks constructed using pre-tensioned steel cables.
  • Defending services engineers in a complex dispute relating to the construction of a “luxury-plus” residential development in London.
  • Acting for a metro-train manufacturer in an £11 million international conciliation and arbitration relating to the upgrading of the London Underground. The dispute involved unusually high levels of legal and technical complexity; cutting-edge scientific developments occurred in its investigation and presentation.
  • Acting on a sub-contractor’s claims for payment under contracts for the construction of a bioethanol power plant.
  • The Magna Park litigation: a £150 million claim arising from flood and fire at Magna Park, the largest business park in Europe. The litigation involved eight parties making complex cross- and contribution claims.
  • Acting for quantity surveyors/cost consultants in £11 million claim arising from the development of a best-in-class luxury hotel.
  • Advising multi-disciplinary construction professional firm on £8 million claim arising out of the refurbishment of a leisure centre.
  • Acting for fire protection main contractor in £5.5 million claim following fire at aluminium strip rolling mill fitted with CO2 fire extinguishant system.
  • Acting for main contractor in £3.5 million flood claims by developer and tenant of £37 million head office of City solicitors.
  • The M6 Thelwall Viaduct litigation: Acted for materials consultants in £35 million claim by Secretary of State for Transport arising out of failure of motorway viaduct (roller bearings). Extremely complex technical issues involving 8-10 expert disciplines.
  • Acting for multi-disciplinary construction professionals in £9 million claim for alleged overspend on regeneration of a West London housing estate.
  • Acting for plant hire contractor in litigation arising out of tower crane collapse at Canary Wharf in 2001. Defending claim of £1.2 million by developers; making claim of £10 million against German crane manufacturer (which involved a preliminary issue on jurisdiction: see Hewden Tower Cranes Ltd v Wolffkran GmbH [2007] 6 BLR 273).  
  • Acting for a services maintenance contractor in a £9 million claim by interdealer broker arising out of electrical fire at international headquarters.
  • Advising on a claim against mechanical and electrical engineers in relation to £20 million claim brought by the developer of major City hotel. This case involved difficult issues as to the construction of collateral warranties. 
  • Acting for structural engineers in multi-party litigation on a £20 million claim relating to ground investigation and foundations design for a warehouse. 
  • Acting for a mechanical & electrical sub-contractor in an £8 million claim brought by the owner of a prestigious West End hotel. 
  • Acting for the main contractor in multi-party litigation arising from a £5 million claim following the collapse of the facade of a building in London, W1. 
  • Acting for the main contractor in a £1.5 million claim arising out of the design and construction of a flagship Midlands office building. This claim involved unusual measure of damages and costs issues.
  • Acting for water treatment consultants in a claim relating to corrosion in a chilled water system.
  • Advising the main contractor in relation to a claim for damage to underground cables during piling works. 
  • Acting for a specialist flooring sub-contractor in £2.5 million claim arising out of design and construction of warehouse floor.
  • Advising plant hire contractor in relation to tower crane collapse in Liverpool in 2007.

Earlier cases include:

  • Acting for refrigeration engineers in multi-party litigation arising out of frost heave at a food storage and distribution facility. 
  • Acting for plant design and supply sub-contractor on a substantial contribution claim relating to fire at a German chocolate factory (self heating of cocoa nibs). 
  • Acting for main contractor in a claim arising out of a hot works fire damaging contract works (and in the contractor’s Part 20 claim against its insurance brokers). 
  • Acting for architects in a claim arising from planning difficulties with a flagship office building: see J Jarvis & Sons Ltd v. (1) Castle Wharf Developments Ltd (2) Gleeds Management Services Ltd (3) Franklin Ellis Architects Ltd [2001] EWCA Civ 19.
  • Acting in a claim against structural engineers arising out of piling design. This case involved difficult issues as to the identification of and responsibility for temporary works. 
  • Acting for architects on a £2 million claim arising out of the redevelopment of commercial premises in London W1. 
  • Advising a developer as to status and effect of an Employer’s Agent’s instruction issued under a design and build contract. 
  • Acting for structural engineers in a £2 million claim arising out of the collapse of a 200-year old retaining wall during groundworks.  
  • Acting for structural engineers in a claim by the MoD following from the detachment in high wind of the roof of an historic shipbuilding slip: Ministry of Defence v. Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick & Ors (TCC, 1997).

Fiona has a particular interest in adjudication under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. She frequently acts in construction contract disputes (including claims against construction professionals) in adjudication. In court, she has appeared on successful pre-emptive challenges to the jurisdiction of adjudicators and, most notably, in Aspect v Higgins, the first case on construction adjudication to reach the Supreme Court. Fiona is herself a trained adjudicator, accredited by the Technology and Construction Court Bar Association. 

Fiona's interest in construction and engineering disputes originated with her extensive practice in construction professionals’ liability. She writes the chapter on Construction Professionals in Jackson & Powell on Professional Liability (Sweet & Maxwell, 7th edition, 2012).

She is a Committee Member of the Technology and Construction Court Bar Association (TECBAR) and a member of the Society of Construction Law (SCL) and the British Insurance Law Association (BILA).