Public liability

DibbsBarker acts for leading Australian and international insurers and self-insureds in the area of public liability who value our commercial approach, pragmatism and discretion. We prioritise your reputation and our strategies are devised around managing all matters as efficiently and sensitively as possible.

We understand that when engaged by insurers, we are acting as an extension of our clients’ business and the manner in which we interact with other stakeholders, whether they are insureds, brokers, experts or opposing lawyers, reflects as much on our clients as it does on ourselves. Our team seeks at all times to be model representatives of our clients and our aim is to always act in the same manner that a client would expect of its staff.

Our team look to obtain a deep understanding of the business drivers of our insurance clients. The group includes lawyers who have acted in claims management roles within insurance companies, worked in the London insurance market, completed secondments or obtained specialist accreditation in areas such as personal injuries law. We use this industry knowledge to provide solutions to our clients that allow them to achieve their business objectives.

We understand the importance of early and accurate assessments of claims to achieve appropriate reserving at the first possible opportunity. The importance of ongoing vigilant review of the adequacy of claim reserves and the need for a 'no surprises' environment is understood by our team, meaning that we review and confirm reserves in each substantial contact that we have with our clients over the course of a claim.

We act for a variety of ASX listed entities which hold large insurance retentions and we are engaged directly by these clients to defend claims that fall within these significant holdings. These clients span various industries including retail, entertainment, logistics and transport, commodities, construction and building services. Over a long history, our team has also developed a broad and deep understanding of the mining, energy and infrastructure industries and we have been involved in defending and negotiating a vast number of claims including many which involve either catastrophic or fatal injuries.


Acting for civil contractors in the Northern Territory: We acted for primary layer underwriters in respect of a claim against civil contractors due to fire damage sustained by a Northern Territory hospital after extensive refurbishment was undertaken by the insured in conjunction with a variety of other contractors. Allegations regarding the adequacy of the fire proofing of the building became the subject of litigation. We advised underwriters on the application of the limit of cover provisions within the policy and how this should be applied to various claims on foot where the cumulative limit was likely to be exceeded.

Defending mining injury claim to trial: We acted on a mining injury claim in North Queensland where liability was admitted but the matter proved incapable of negotiated resolution, due to the intractable attitude of the claimant. In order to protect the underwriters' position, we delivered a formal offer strategically crafted to put the plaintiff at risk of having an adverse costs order made against him. Costs of the trial were limited by the resolution of the contribution proceedings on foot between the various defendants such that it was possible to have the trial simplified down to a quantum dispute between the plaintiff and our insured. Judgment was delivered for damages less than the formal offer and costs of the trial were ordered against the plaintiff.  The appeal of the decision was successfully resisted.

Time critical resolution of potentially catastrophic claim: We acted for underwriters in a claim involving serious injuries sustained by a mine worker when his dominant hand was crushed during maintenance of machinery which had not been isolated. The injuries ended the 37-year-old worker’s career as an underground miner. The face value of the claim was in the order of $1.8 million and was only commenced in the shadows of the expiration of the limitation period. Nonetheless, within 12 months of being instructed, we resolved the claim at mediation at a fraction of the reserve.

Defending claim for total loss: We acted for civil contractors in a property damage claim arising from the construction of a ‘green’ building in the Sydney CBD where the potable water supply was contaminated by mercury which leached from the water catching membrane lining the building roof. We defended the plaintiff's claim that there was an entitlement to tear down and rebuild the building given the alleged inability to otherwise rectify the damage. The claim involved insured and uninsured components of damage, requiring the adjusting of a claim to determine the relevant exposure to underwriters and the insured. We ultimately resolved the coverage issues without the need for separate representation or expensive litigation over the policy’s application to the overall loss.

Complex multi-party claim: We defended and resolved (well within reserve) a claim against our client’s insured design and construction contractor for an upgrade of an abattoir at which a fire caused substantial damage and consequential losses. The claim involved complex electrical engineering and fire investigation expert evidence, close forensic examination of thousands of documents with a significant favourable impact on the result, and duty of care issues including our successful resistance of a court application by the subsequent occupier of the abattoir to sue our client.

Senior Associate
T +61 7 3100 5149
Doyles Guide leading list rankings

Kelli Stallard - Recommended Lawyer in Public Liability (Defendant - Queensland, 2016)

Doyles Guide is an independent guide with rankings compiled through feedback from those in the legal profession.

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