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Fiona Sinclair QC

Construction & Engineering

Chambers & Partners Bar Awards 2012: Construction Junior of the Year.

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

“A dream to work with – she’s committed, gets her hands dirty, is not afraid of detail and is very well liked by clients” (Chambers & Partners 2014 – Construction)

Judges listen to everything she says and she commands a lot of respect” (Chambers & Partners 2014 – Professional Negligence Technology and Construction).

Fiona has extensive experience of very substantial construction and engineering disputes, often with international aspects and typically involving complex technical evidence. 

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’s clients won a landmark decision in Aspect Contracts (Asbestos) Ltd v Higgins Construction plc [2013] EWHC 1322 (TCC) and [2013] EWCA Civ 1541. Fiona’s opponents have a pending application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
  • Acting for a US building contractor in an international arbitration concerning the redevelopment of a Caribbean island.
  • 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) and [2014] EWHC 1099 (TCC) (Costs)
  • 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.
  • Defending multiple firms of solicitors in claims by multiple claimants alleging negligence in connection with the procurement of building warranty insurance for two residential developments. The claims are being tried together with claims under the Defective Premises Act against a design and build contractor. The multiplicity of parties on each side of the dispute created unusual procedural challenges. 
  • 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.
  • Defending a plant hire contractor against multiple claims following the collapse of a tower crane at Canary Wharf, and making a claim on against the crane manufacturer. A related jurisdictional issue was decided at Hewden Tower Cranes Ltd v Wolffkran GMbh [
  • 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's interest in construction and engineering disputes originated with her extensive practice in construction professional liability. She writes the chapter on Construction Professionals in Jackson & Powell on Professional Liability (Sweet & Maxwell, 7th edition, 2012).

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

Fiona has a particular interest in adjudication under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. She has been instructed in the preparation of construction contract disputes (including claims against construction professionals) for adjudication. In court, she has appeared on successful pre-emptive challenges to the jurisdiction of adjudicators. The chapter on construction professionals which she writes for Jackson & Powell on Professional Liability includes a consideration of adjudication as it impacts on claims against architects, engineers, surveyors and project managers. As well as acting for parties to disputes which are submitted for adjudication, and writing about adjudication, Fiona is herself a trained adjudicator, accredited by the Technology and Construction Court Bar Association. For details and information on arranging the appointment of an adjudicator, go to the Association's website at www.tecbar.org.uk.