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Isabel Hitching

Call 1992

"She has an awesome intellect and always examines issues from all angles."
(Legal 500 2016)

Isabel Hitching specialises in the commercial, construction and engineering, insurance, professional negligence and property damage fields.

She undertakes frequent trial work in the High Court, and regularly appears in the Court of Appeal. She is also instructed in adjudications and arbitrations.

With her academic background as a lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford, Isabel is frequently instructed in cases raising novel or complex points of law. She has been involved in a number of test cases at first instance as well as hearings in the House of Lords, Supreme Court and European Court of Justice.

She is also a member of the Attorney General’s Treasury Panel advising and acting for the government in a range of disputes up to £100m.

Isabel is known for her commercial and practical approach, assisting clients in mediations and negotiations. She also undertakes non-contentious work, advising on and drafting agreements.

Commercial

Isabel has extensive experience of acting in commercial disputes, including:

  • Domestic and trans-national commercial contract disputes (sale of goods, provision of professional services, restrictive covenants, scope of guarantees and warranties)
  • Civil fraud and misrepresentation.
  • The validity, construction and enforcement of financial instruments issued by domestic institutions, overseas banks and hedge funds.
  • Breach of directors’ duties and breach of fiduciary duties. Isabel is instructed both by the government, as a Member of the Attorney General’s Panel, and for directors in relation to disqualification proceedings and permission to act applications. She also acts in claims for damages for breach and to enforce restrictive covenants.
  • Breach of competition law and economic torts.

Isabel has acted in cases raising complex issues of causation, reflective loss, third party rights and assignment of rights. Isabel succeeded in having a multi-million pound claim for professional negligence struck out as being wholly reflective loss. She successfully argued complex points of causation and foreseeability in the Court of Appeal to secure a large award for her client in an international sale of goods claim.

Isabel acts in relation to the enforcement of claims and the preservation and pursuit of claims in the event of insolvency. She has successfully fought several trials resulting in property transfers being set aside as transactions at an undervalue and the obtaining of tracing and equitable remedies. She appeared for the Attorney General in the House of Lords in Burton v Mellham [2006] UKHL 6; [2006] 1 W.L.R. 2820 in relation to the scope of equitable set-off.

Given the nature of the cases Isabel has often been instructed in cases concerning urgent interim relief, including search and seizure and freezing orders.

Many cases have had an international dimension requiring advice on private international and European law (including European competition law) and an ability to work as part of a team with lawyers in other jurisdictions.

Selected Cases

  • Acting on behalf of the Highways Agency, led by Anneliese Day QC (Fountain Court) in CONNECT PLUS (M25) LIMITED V HIGHWAYS ENGLAND COMPANY LIMITED ( judgment awaited) concerning the calculation of sums due to the DBFO company under the PFI for the M25.
  • Acting for developers of a high value private property in Weybridge seeking to set aside a settlement reached with second level funders for fraud.  White et al v PSM Residential Finance Limited and Pluto Finance Limited.  listed for trial October 2017.  Judgment on preliminary point [2017] EWHC 1925 TCC.
  • Acting for and against the government in a number of disputes between central and local government and contractors relating to the provision of IT facilities: including issues of procurement, terms of supply and calculation of cost.
  • Acting in a number of cases for former employees in relation to restrictive covenants.
  • Advising in relation to claims arising out of the provision of finance facilities to a consortium in connection with the acquisition of FTSE 100 company. (Pre-Issue – Commercial Court).
  • Instructed in relation to a multi-million pound claim for breach of marketing agreements for the provision of on-line betting services in a number of EU jurisdictions. (Commercial Court).
  • Worked closely with an extensive legal and expert team in relation to claims for breach of a gas infrastructure agreement and abuse of dominant position.
  • Gave emergency advice as to the enforcement of an order made by a UK court recognising a letter of request from a US court that the director of a UK company attend a deposition hearing and disclose company documents. (Commercial Court)
  • Acted for the Defendant in relation to a claim in contract and restitution by the Defendant’s alleged former employer seeking to recoup tax payments, which it had paid to HMRC on the Defendant’s behalf. The Defendant disputed whether the Defendant had been obliged to make the payments or had done so incorrectly. The issue involved detailed consideration of the interrelation between a number of tax regimes as the Defendant had operated and resided in a number of jurisdictions. Isabel worked closely with an expert legal and accountancy team, advising on discussions with HMRC as well as the litigation, enabling a settlement to be achieved shortly before trial. (Chancery Division)
  • Advising on and revising standard terms and conditions for commercial businesses and professional services organisation.
  • Advising on issues arising in relation to mergers and demergers of professional services organisations (solicitors and accountants).
  • Drafting multiple back-to-back agreements for a £60m construction project.

Construction & Engineering

Isabel has a long-established construction and engineering practice and is instructed in contractual and professional negligence claims arising out of a wide variety of domestic, European and international construction and engineering projects.

Selected Cases

  • Fulwood (& 24 Others) v Secretary of state for the Department for Energy and Climate Change & Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council & Others – Acting for a local authority defending claims by residents alleging breach of duties in connection with the dismantling of gas works and the reclamation of the site on which their properties were built: alleged environmental damage and personal injuries (ongoing QBD).
  • Aspect Contracts (Asbestos) Ltd v Higgins Construction PLC (ongoing) Supreme Court: [2015] UKSC 38 Court of Appeal: [2013] EWCA Civ 1514 First instance: [2013] EWHC 1322 (TCC) – Preliminary issue concerning identification of the cause of action and applicable limitation period for a party paying monies following an adjudication decision to seek a final determination and, if successful, recovery.
  • Saint-Gobain Building Distribution Ltd v C A Blackwell (Contracts) Ltd & Tencate Geosynthetics (UK) Ltd (TCC) – Dispute as to the design of crane pads and road surfacing for a wind farm.
  • Network Rail v Handy et al [2015] EWHC 1175 (TCC) – Test cases concerning the scope of damages payable to Network Rail by drivers causing line incursions or bridge strikes. This was a further test case following the Court of Appeal judgement in Network Rail v Conarken (in which Isabel was instructed for the application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court). Following Handy Isabel was instructed in a number of cases where the decided principles fell to be applied.
  • Thames Water Utilities Limited v Viridor Waste (Thames) Limited – Acted for Viridor defending a multi-million pound claim for contamination of a sewage treatment works and pollution of a drinking water supply and bringing a multi-million pound cross-claim for damages for breach of contract. Five disciplines of expert were instructed, including hydrologists, biochemists and surveyors specialising in the construction and operation of sewage treatment plants. Acted from pre action until settlement before trial following mediation.
  • Alexander & Law v Coveside (21BPR) Ltd [2013] EWHC 3949 (TCC); 152 Con. L.R. 163 – Enforcement of adjudication decision. The existence of a winding up petition was not a defence to summary judgment.
  • Acting on behalf of the Highways Agency, led by Anneliese Day QC (Fountain Court) in CONNECT PLUS (M25) LIMITED V HIGHWAYS ENGLAND COMPANY LIMITED ( judgment awaited) concerning the calculation of sums due to the DBFO company under the PFI for the M25.
  • Acting for developers of a high value private property in Weybridge seeking to set aside a settlement reached with second level funders for fraud including the fraudulent procuring and provision of a certificate of practical completion.  White et al v PSM Residential Finance Limited and Pluto Finance Limited.  listed for trial October 2017.  Judgment on preliminary point [2017] EWHC 1925 TCC.
  • Successfully acting for the Environment Agency in relation to a range of projects from footpaths to flood defences.
  • GE Energy Power Conversion UK Ltd v Anixter Ltd and Cooper & Turner Distribution Ltd and Clyde Fasteners Ltd (TCC listed for trial 2018) – Acting for 4th party manufacturer of components which allegedly failed in generators manufactured by GE for use in the oil and gas industry.  Issues of traceability of the components through the contractual chain and cause of failure.

Insurance & Reinsurance

Isabel has acted in a wide range of insurance disputes for both insurers and insured. Matters have included:

  • Fraud, arson and non-disclosure.
  • Construction of the policy and scope of cover.
  • Disputes as to timing, both as to the inception of cover and the occurrence of the insured event.
  • Subrogation
  • Valuation of claims.

Isabel is currently instructed by the Attorney General in a number of cases including Richards v Secretary of State for Transport and Lewis v Tindale and MIB and Secretary of State for Transport  and Pammen v MIB and Secretary of State for Transport where the court is asked to determine whether the Road Traffic Act 1988 correctly implements EU Directives, and if not whether damages for breach of statutory duty are recoverable against the Secretary of State.

Isabel also successfully acted for insurers (led by Andrew Bartlett QC) in the claims by victims of the ‘black cab’ serial sex offender AXN v Worboys [2012] EWHC 1730 (QB); [2013] Lloyd’s Rep. I.R. 207; [2013] L.L.R. 256

Many of Isabel’s instructions in construction and property damage cases are on behalf of insurers.

Professional Liability

Isabel has extensive experience of acting in professional negligence claims. Cases have involved barristers, solicitors, building surveyors, valuers, stock condition surveyors, structural engineers, accountants, employers’ agents, architects and financial advisers. Many cases have involved extensive forensic expert evidence, often with several disciplines of expert instructed in a single case.

Isabel has particular experience in acting in the specialist field of claims arising from stock condition surveys.

Selected Cases

  • Nick Joyce Architects LLP v Rudders & Payne Ltd – Contribution claim by architects against specialist damp proofing contractor for allegedly negligent advice as to a damp proofing scheme.
  • Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council v (Def) One Vision Housing Ltd (Part 20 Def 1) Savills Commercial Ltd (Part Def 2) Curtins Consulting Engineers PLC – Isabel appeared for Savills, stock condition surveyors, defending professional negligence claims arising out of the fascia to tower blocks detaching in high winds. The claim was one of the first in relation to stock condition surveys. Isabel acted from pre-issue to settlement shortly before trial following a two day mediation. In Donnelly v Camden Borough Council, Savills Commercial Ltd and Savills PLC Isabel appeared for both Savills’ entities. The claimant suffered head injuries at a property owned by the Council which had been surveyed as part of a stock condition survey by Savills Commercial ltd. The claim was discontinued against Savills PLC and a settlement reached with Savills Commercial Ltd in 2015.
  • Advised a claimant on a potential professional negligence claim against former solicitors who had acted for her in connection with a negligence claim against property developers.
  • Acted for liquidator of company against accountants for failure properly to draw accounts to ensure monies withdrawn by sole director over a period of years were repayable loans.
  • Acted for a property developer of a block of luxury apartments in central London in connection with potential claims in negligence against architects, engineers and employers’ agents, following flooding valued in excess of £1m. The legal complexity arose from the fact that the property developer had operated at arms’ length through a subsidiary, now insolvent, which had entered into a contract with a main contractor that was now also insolvent.
  • Acted for developer against quantity surveyor / employer’s agent for undervaluation of the build-out costs of a housing estate.

Property Damage

Isabel is regularly instructed in property damage claims for trespass, nuisance and negligence. Cases have included chemical contamination, flood, fire, collision, tree root trespass and damage occurring during construction works.

Selected Cases

  • Advising the government on a claim arising out of extensive damage caused to listed buildings in central London during a programme of renovation works due to the collapse of machinery.
  • GE Energy Power Conversion UK Ltd v Anixter Ltd and Cooper & Turner Distribution Ltd and Clyde Fasteners Ltd (TCC listed for trial 2018) – Acting for 4th party manufacturer of components which allegedly failed in generators manufactured by GE for use in the oil and gas industry causing extensive damage to the generators.  Issues of traceability of the components through the contractual chain and cause of failure.
  • Highways England Company Limited v (1) B.G Rodwell Limited (2) Robert Cheadle (3) Allianz Insurance –[2017] EWCH 118 (QB) (recently settled). – Acting for Highways England to recover c £1/2m for damage to a bridge over the A14 caused by a bridge strike against the lorry driver, his employer and road traffic insurer.  Instructed after issue of proceedings, successfully resisting an application to strike out the claim and obtaining a settlement.
  • Fulwood (& 24 Others) v Secretary of State for the Department for Energy & Climate Change, Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council & Others – Acting for a local authority defending action by residents alleging breach of duties in connection with dismantling of gas works and the reclamation of the site on which their properties were built. Claims include alleged damage to property and environmental pollution (recently settled QBD).
  • Network Rail v Handy et al [2015] EWHC 1175 (TCC) – Test case concerning the scope of damages payable to Network Rail by drivers causing line incursions or bridge strikes. Isabel was previously instructed in Conarken Group Ltd v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd on the application to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal from the decision of the Court of Appeal ; [2011] EWCA Civ 644; [2012] 1 All E.R. (Comm) 692; [2011] 2 C.L.C. 1; [2011] B.L.R. 462;
  • Thames Water Utilities Limited v Viridor Waste (Thames) Limited – Acted for Viridor defending a multi-million pound claim for chemical contamination of a sewage treatment plant and pollution of a drinking water supply and bringing a cross-claim for damages for breach of contract. Five disciplines of expert were involved, including hydrologists, biochemists and surveyors specialising in the construction and operation of sewage treatment plants. Isabel acted from pre action until settlement following mediation.

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Qualifications


  • Lord Justice Sachs Scholarship, Middle Temple
  • Queen Mother Scholarship, Middle Temple
  • BCL, Christ Church, Oxford
  • MA (First Class), Christ Church, Oxford

Memberships


  • Attorney General’s Treasury Panel
  • Bar Standards Board Equality & Diversity Committee (Past member)
  • Bar Standards Board Qualifications Committee (Past Vice-chair)
  • Commercial Bar Association
  • London Common Law & Commercial Bar Association
  • Society of Construction Law (Past committee member)
  • Technology & Construction Bar Association (Past committee member)
  • Joint editor of Emden’s Construction Law

Recommendations


“A first-class senior junior and a superb tactician, who is masterly with the game plan.”

(Legal 500 2017)

“A highly intelligent and practical barrister.”

(Chambers & Partners 2015)


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