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Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC of Atkin Chambers explains how construction disputes have changed over the past few years and what to expect in the future.
It’s great being involved in a field that is not just about disputes, but which also involves the creation of something. I don’t mean creative arguments, but rather the projects which are the subject matter of cases. In the commercial field, the law can sometimes be somewhat intangible or removed from reality. In construction disputes the reality of the physical project and the people involved in the project is never far removed. This, combined with the genuinely interesting legal issues that many construction disputes throw up, is what makes my work interesting. The fact that most projects involve a number of different professionals, several contractors, funders, insurers as well as the employer, gives rise to complex questions of legal responsibility when something goes wrong.
A large number of my cases are in arbitration and so are confidential. The case which attracted the most media coverage was probably the Wembley litigation where I represented Mott MacDonald—Brookfield Construction (UK) Ltd (formerly Multiplex Constructions (UK) Ltd v Mott Macdonald Ltd  EWHC 659 (TCC),  All ER (D) 13 (Apr).
It was said at the time to be the largest professional negligence case issued in the Technology and Construction Court (TCC). In terms of case management, this case was ahead of its time. The other side’s incurred costs were very high which was tricky. At the time the TCC’s case management powers related primarily to costs to be incurred, but I persuaded the TCC to make some extremely helpful and robust comments concerning the very high level of costs already incurred. On a lighter note, the site visit to Wembley Stadium (minus the usual crowds) was certainly fun.
Trends in the dispute side of the construction industry tend, not surprisingly, to follow what is being built. On the domestic side,
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