Zita has specialised in environmental and construction professional indemnity law since May 2002. Her construction practice includes the defence of claims against engineers, architects and other construction consultants and bringing claims for contribution and counterclaims for fees where necessary.
Her environmental practice includes: defence of claims against construction consultants arising out of contaminated land issues; defending claims in negligence, public or private nuisance for losses attributable to environmental factors (contamination, odours, noise, vibration, dust, flooding etc); responding to enforcement actions and investigations undertaken by various regulators following environmental incidents (including advising before and during interviews under caution, submissions to the regulator regarding level of harm caused, and establishing whether the regulator has followed its own internal policies and procedures); defending environmental prosecutions and related third party claims.
Zita is responsible for the day-to-day conduct of litigated and non-litigated disputes and frequently acts in multi-party disputes in the TCC, in mediations and other forms of ADR. She also acts in regulatory matters in a construction context, advising clients in response to HSE investigations and defending prosecutions.
What or who inspired you to become a lawyer in the construction industry?
During my training contract to become a solicitor I did a seat in the construction team of the firm I was with. I really enjoyed the complexity of construction projects and every case is so different and offers a new challenge. There are also many technical as well as legal issues to understand too. From early on I was involved in defending claims brought by developers against ground engineers. I developed a special interest in these types of claims and helping engineers to put in place simple measures to avoid them.
What does a typical day entail?
Every day is different of course but a typical day would involve reviewing documents, attending meetings and / or phone calls with clients. Dealing with ad hoc queries. We also manage the AGS Legal Helpline so I quite often will deal with calls from that.
Are there any cases which you’re particularly proud to have advised on?
I often defend prosecutions brought by the Environment Agency and on many occasions we have persuaded the Agency not to prosecute our client which is extremely satisfying.
What are the most challenging aspects of your role?
I will often have multiple deadlines running at the same time so managing these, my time and multi-tasking between them can be difficult. It can also be difficult to switch off when I’m not in the office from certain cases that are particularly challenging.
What AGS Working Group are you a Member of and what are your current focuses?
I am a member of the Loss Prevention Working Group, which focusses on commercial risks faced by members and how to reduce them. One of our objectives is to get across the message that there are simple things members can do to reduce their exposure to claims. The group held a seminar in London recently on ‘Commercial Risks’ which I was lucky enough to speak at, covering collateral warranties, reliance and limiting liability. We are hoping to re-run the seminar in Manchester later in January 2020.
What do you most enjoy about being an AGS affiliate and why is it beneficial?
Being involved in the AGS gives members a great opportunity to share their knowledge and hear from other members and learn from them. I find this incredibly beneficial in my role as a lawyer and also on the Loss Prevention Working group. Understanding the reality of what the members work involves and the practical issues they face means that as a lawyer I can make my advice more relevant.
Why do you feel the AGS is important to the industry?
The AGS is an important focal point and repository for know-how tailored to this particular industry. It helps to maintain standards and their work can influence other industry bodies.
What changes would you like to see implemented in the geotechnical industry?
I would like to see an acceptance by employers and clients that it is reasonable for engineers and contractors to limit their liability. Unlimited liability benefits no-one and only puts the consultant / contractor at risk of insolvency.