Rupert Choat
Office:
1 Atkin Building
Gray's Inn
WC1R 5AT
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 20 7404 0102

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders: Construction

Rupert Choat is a barrister. He has specialised since 1997 in construction, engineering, PFI/PPP, energy and similar disputes. He has worked on disputes concerning projects in over 50 jurisdictions – with most of them governed by the local law. Rupert is a practising arbitrator and has sat in ICC, SCC, DIAC and ad hoc arbitrations. He is also a CEDR-accredited mediator. Rupert teaches on the MSc in Construction Law & Dispute Resolution at King’s College, London. He is contributing editor for Global Arbitration Review Know-how: Construction Arbitration.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO ENTER THE LEGAL PROFESSION?

The pleasure of trying to solve complex problems and influencing how they are solved.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT PRACTISING CONSTRUCTION LAW THAT APPEALS TO YOU?

Practising construction law raises a satisfying blend of issues, ranging from the technical to the commercial to the legal. One of the great pleasures of the work is engaging with people and legal systems from across the world. Happily it is easier than ever before to compare and contrast construction laws in different jurisdictions.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE CASE THAT YOU HAVE WORKED ON?

Of the cases I have been involved with which are public, one of the most memorable was helping a London theatre (the Hackney Empire) pursue a bond claim, after its refurbishment contractor went insolvent. I still remember the moment when I learned that the Supreme Court had refused our opponent’s permission to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s judgment (Aviva Insurance Ltd v Hackney Empire Ltd [2012] EWCA Civ 1716).

WHAT ROLE DO YOU THINK ADR METHODS CAN PLAY IN RESOLVING CONSTRUCTION DISPUTES?

The evidence shows the cost effectiveness of processes other than arbitration and litigation in avoiding and resolving disputes. Such processes are not adopted as often as they should be internationally. The take-up of dispute boards remains disappointingly low. That is a particular shame where at least one of the parties is reluctant to settle without an independent third party’s decision (as is often the case for public sector entities, for example).

WHAT ARE THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FACING PRACTITIONERS IN CONSTRUCTION LAW IN YOUR JURISDICTION?

The greatest challenges include (but are not limited to!) the proliferation of standard forms, regulations and court judgments (in particular, identifying the few judgments which materially develop the law out of the many which do not).

IF YOU WERE TO IDENTIFY ONE TREND IN ENGLISH CONSTRUCTION LAW, WHAT WOULD THAT TREND BE?

Ever stronger support for – and enforcement of – the words used by parties in their contracts. That includes, first, an even stricter approach to contractual interpretation (Arnold v Britton [2015] UKSC 36 and Wood v Capita [2017] UKSC 24); second, a growing reluctance to apply artificial rules of interpretation which were developed to address the worst excesses of freedom of contract, before legislation emerged to combat unfair contractual terms (eg, Persimmon v Ove Arup [2017] EWCA Civ 373); and third, an even higher threshold for challenging liquidated damages provisions (Cavendish v Makdessi [2015] UKSC 67).

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