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Fiona Sinclair QC

Construction & Engineering

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

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

  • Acting for the main contractor in a dispute concerning the collapse of concrete sewage tanks constructed using pre-tensioned steel cables.
  • Acting for 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 claim 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's interest in construction and engineering disputes originated with her extensive practice in professional liability concerning architects and engineers. She writes the chapter on Construction Professionals in Jackson & Powell on Professional Negligence (Sweet & Maxwell, 6th edition, 2007).

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 Negligence 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.