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Christopher Lewis QC_Barrister_Atkin Chambers

Christopher Lewis QC


Silk 2017

“He is very bright and exceptionally diligent. He is always the best-prepared person in the room.”


Chambers and Partners

Christopher practises principally in the fields of construction and engineering; energy and utilities; information technology; and related matters. He is an experienced trial advocate, and is usually also involved at earlier stages of a case. His experience includes, therefore: advisory work; settling pleadings, submissions and notices; pre-trial advocacy (including advocacy in mediations); and trial advocacy. That experience spans a range of different forums, including: mediation, adjudication, expert determination, arbitration (domestic and international), the High Court (principally the TCC and the Commercial Court) and appellate courts.

He has represented clients from, and advised on disputes relating to, a number of different jurisdictions throughout Europe, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. A number of those disputes have been subject to arbitration, under differing arbitration rules. He has a particular interest in disputes which have a conflict of laws element (whether as to jurisdiction, or choice of law, or otherwise).

Very often his cases will involve complicated issues of law, fact and/or expert evidence; and those issues have arisen in a range of different types of project across a range of different disciplines.

Christopher is recommended in the most recent editions of both The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners in the fields of Construction, International Arbitration and Energy & Natural Resources.

CONSTRUCTION, ENGINEERING AND INFRASTRUCTURE

He has been involved in cases concerning a range of different aspects of building, construction and civil engineering projects, representing contractors, employers and consultants. He is fully conversant with the major standard form contracts used in the construction industry, and has extensive experience of the issues arising in construction projects of all types. Examples of his work include:

  • Conducting a two-and-a-half-week TCC trial (leading Jennifer Jones) before Mr Justice Coulson in J Murphy & Sons Ltd v Johnston Precast Ltd in respect of the failure of a water main, and involving interesting legal questions and expert evidence as to the mechanism of failure.
  • Appearing as junior counsel at first instance and before the Court of Appeal in Rust Consulting Ltd v PB Ltd on the proper construction of an asset purchase agreement and related questions of estoppel.
  • Acting as junior counsel in the Buncefield case (at the quantum stage), involving consideration of the remedial works undertaken (including works on the fire-fighting and safety integrity systems; and works necessitated by the contamination of the site as a result of extinguishing the fire).
  • Acting as junior counsel on a case concerning the design and construction of a motorway, and involving consideration of the use of new materials on the project (HMB 15).
  • Acting for the owner in the Solitaire arbitration concerning the conversion of a bulk-carrier into the world’s largest pipe-laying vessel. This was (at the time) the longest running LMAA arbitration ever, and he was instructed in the case for five years. His involvement included representing the client at a number of lengthy hearings in 2003 to 2005, conducting cross-examination of factual and expert witnesses on a range of technically complex matters (including experts in piping and architectural work; delay analysis; and quantity surveying).
  • Acting as sole counsel in a TCC case concerning the defective welding of portable modular units. The claim involved technical issues as to welding and structural engineering, and turned in part on the proper construction of a sale and purchase agreement under which shares in certain companies were sold and purchased.
  • Appearing as counsel for the claimant in the interesting case of Geoffrey Osborne Ltd v Atkins Rail Ltd (on the relationship between enforcement of adjudicators’ decisions and Part 8 proceedings).
  • Appearing for the claimant before Mr Justice Ramsey in Norwest Holst v Danieli Davy Distington, successfully obtaining an order (on a Part 8 application) that the works in question (on a site where the primary activity was to be the production, transmission, processing or bulk storage of steel) were construction operations within the meaning of section 105 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.
  • Appearing for the defendant at first instance in C&B Scene v Isobars (the client was unrepresented before the Court of Appeal), successfully resisting an application for summary judgment for the enforcement of an adjudicator’s award.

ENERGY, NATURAL RESOURCES AND UTILITIES

OIL AND GAS

  • Appearing as one of a team of five counsel (two silks and three juniors) in Florez v Equion Energia Ltd: a 62-day TCC trial before Mr Justice Stuart-Smith. These proceedings concerned claims by 109 Colombian farmers that their land had been damaged by the construction of an oil pipeline in the mid-1990s. The case was widely reported in the press (described by The Guardian as “the first time [a claim for] compensation for environmental damage to privately owned land, caused by a UK oil company, has been litigated in the UK”). Christopher appeared for the Defendant, and cross-examined both factual and expert witnesses.
  • Initially junior, and then sole, counsel on a large international arbitration (sums claimed c.US$1bn) relating to the design of an onshore processing facility in Russia. He was involved for over a year during the interlocutory stages of the case, including the preparation of a pleading, requests to produce and interlocutory hearings before the UNCITRAL panel.
  • Appearing as junior counsel for the owner in an international arbitration concerning the construction of an oil and gas platform in the Far East. His cross-examination of factual and expert witnesses (during a five-week hearing in London under the LCIA rules) covered issues such as D&E, weight growth, miscellaneous variations and the valuation of loss caused by deferred production.
  • Appearing as junior counsel for the owner in an international arbitration concerning the construction of a semi-submersible oil and gas platform. He was involved at the pleading stages, and also undertook cross-examination of factual and expert witnesses at a substantial preliminary issues hearing on defects (including in the HVAC and fire-fighting systems).
  • Advising and undertaking the pleading of Points of Defence and Counterclaim in an LMAA arbitration in respect of a dispute relating to the design and construction of an FPSO for use off the coast of Africa. One of the central issues in the case was the contractor’s claim for an extension of time and project extension costs, relating to alleged delays which it had experienced in constructing the FPSO in Dubai.

OTHER NATURAL RESOURCES AND UTILITIES

In addition to Christopher’s experience in oil and gas projects, he has also been instructed on cases relating to projects involving other natural resources, utilities and the like. By way of example:

  • Appearing as junior counsel in an international arbitration (ICC; seat in London) concerning the design, construction and installation of an offshore wind farm. He undertook cross-examination of factual and expert witnesses on a range of issues at the substantive hearing.
  • Acting in a claim concerning allegedly defective components incorporated in a water treatment plant in the Middle East. The dispute was between international parties and involved issues as to the fitness for purpose of the components in question.
  • Advising on a case relating to the failure of specialist equipment in a mine in one of the former Soviet republics.
  • Advising on a case relating to the design and construction of an in-vessel composting facility in the south of England.

PROFESSIONAL NEGLIGENCE

He has experience in the professional negligence field in relation to claims brought against construction industry professionals. Case examples include:

  • Acting as junior counsel in a claim for professional negligence against designers of M&E services.
  • Acting as junior counsel for the defendant in a case relating to a fire at a confectionery factory (sums claimed in excess of £100m), involving allegations of professional negligence against the defendant.
  • Acting for insurers in a case involving an allegation of professional negligence against a firm of architects in relation to the design of a roofing system.
  • Advising on a contractor’s claim against architects in respect of an allegation of negligent design of windows and doors in the conversion of a hotel into a block of flats.
  • Acting as sole counsel at trial for a firm of architects in a case involving allegations that the architects had failed to obtain viable tenders for works on a listed building.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Christopher has been instructed by customers and suppliers in relation to claims concerning computer hardware/software and telecommunication systems, including:

  • Conducting a four-week TCC trial (leading Peter Land) before Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart in De Beers UK Ltd v Atos Origin IT Services UK Ltd. The case related to a software development and supply agreement, and concerned allegations of repudiatory breach, variations (including in particular arguments about the scope of the works undertaken), delay and quantum. The case is often cited for the Judge’s findings on the correct approach to concurrent delay.
  • Conducting (as sole counsel) a one-week arbitration in Hong Kong concerning the licensing of software and the provision of related IT deliverables and services in respect of a bank’s private wealth management division.
  • Advising on the proper construction of a contract relating to the provision of mobile telephone services.
  • Acting as junior counsel for Atos in the trial before Mr Justice Teare in Atos v Avis. The case concerned the provision of an ERP technology system throughout Europe and the introduction of a Shared Services Centre. It involved technically complex evidence (both factual and expert) relating to the selection, configuration and customisation of the software package in question, the construction of bespoke interfaces, and the processes which would be carried out with the new system; allegations of misrepresentation, professional negligence and repudiatory breach; and complex issues as to quantum.
  • Appearing as sole counsel for the supplier in an expert determination (before a specialist silk) concerning the proper construction of a contract in respect of the provision of IT services to a government department.

OTHER PROFESSIONAL INTERESTS

Read law at University College, Oxford – distinction in Law Moderations, first class degree in Finals and first class degree in BCL; winner of Eldon Law scholarship. Graded outstanding in Bar Vocational Course. Sometime tutor of law at Wadham College, Oxford and LSE.

Editor of Building Law Reports; Contributing editor of Hudson’s Building and Engineering Contracts, 12th edition.

Christopher is a member of TECBAR, COMBAR, LCLCBA, SCL and the Society for Computers and Law.