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    • Hugh King - Wotton + Kearney
    • Andrew Moore - Wotton + Kearney
    • Virginia Wethey - Fee Langstone

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Bell Gully’s insurance claims practice is driven by numerous High Court matters for Southern Response, as well as representation of leading insurers such as Vero, AMP Life and Aon. The team also advises insurers and insureds on product issues and policy wording. In Auckland, David Friar β€˜stands out for his confident approach to litigation and is strong on strategy and expert witness cross-examination’, and fellow team co-head Simon Ladd is β€˜brilliant, both strategically and analytically’. Glenn Joblin is also recommended. Highlights included successfully opposing a class action alleging that client Southern Response misrepresented insurance policy obligations, unreasonably delayed the processing and settling of claims, and understated the true costs of rebuilds and repairs. The firm also represented AMP Services (NZ) in a High Court action against reinsurer RGA Reinsurance Company that raised issues about the scope of coverage for life insurance policies.

At Chapman Tripp, β€˜the quality is impressive and the firm has outstanding lawyers who perform well in the courtroom and have in-depth understanding of the regulatory regime’. The firm acts for many large domestic and international insurers, including AMP, QBE Insurance and Vero Liability, and is the primary legal adviser to statutory disaster insurer, the Earthquake Commission (EQC). The practice focuses on complex and high-value claims, regulatory matters and commercial transactions. John Knight in Wellington leads on work for EQC, for which the firm has handled more than 500 disputes from Canterbury homeowners and private insurers. Knight and Bruce Scott are also advising EQC on the development of new policies to evaluate and settle novel and complex forms of land damage claims. Garth Gallaway in Christchurch is one of the most prominent litigators on the South Island and last year he acted for QBE on behalf of the Helicopter Line in matters arising from a fatal helicopter crash.

DLA Piper New Zealand provides β€˜pragmatic and commercially focused advice’. The Auckland office has standout practitioners in Crossley Gates, who β€˜has a wide breadth of insurance industry knowledge and a pragmatic approach’, and seasoned litigator Caroline Laband. Aimee Credin regularly advises the Medical Protection Society. In Wellington, Peter Leman and special counsel Brad Cuff have β€˜a confident approach to High Court litigation and inspire their own team and clients alike with their outgoing personalities’, and Adam Holloway is β€˜highly skilled and instils confidence in clients’. The team is defending Southern Response Earthquake Services in numerous High Court claims brought by insured owners of residential properties variously damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes. Laband also acted for Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co and Vero Insurance New Zealand in the defence of proceedings relating to the Emmons site in Christchurch, which was damaged in the earthquakes. The caseload includes claims for material damage and business interruption for three key buildings.

β€˜Whenever rapid responses are required, they can perform’, say clients of insurance boutique Fee Langstone, describing it as β€˜one of the best, a specialist firm that compares more than favourably with its larger competitors’. Sources report β€˜good depth of knowledge, experience and pragmatism, combined with innovative thinking’ from β€˜highly experienced practitioner’ Philippa Fee, Craig Langstone, Cecily Brick, marine insurance specialist Pauline Davies and newly promoted Matthew Atkinson, who all β€˜have strong experience and problem-solving skills’. Senior associate Virginia Wethey is β€˜thorough and dedicated’. The firm advises most of New Zealand’s largest insurers. It acted for Vero in a proceeding brought by Prattley Enterprises, which sought the setting aside of a settlement agreement for a claim relating to damage to a commercial building caused by the Canterbury earthquakes. Its professional negligence work included advising Argo on claims against insured brokers arising from the earthquakes.

Insurance boutique firm Wotton + Kearney established in Auckland and Wellington in 2017 when the firm integrated the former DAC Beachcroft New Zealand team. The group provides β€˜a specialised and cost-effective service’ that clients describe as β€˜top tier, the best in leaky buildings defence’. Team head Antony Holden in Wellington is β€˜solution-focused with deep knowledge of national and international insurance law’. In Auckland, the β€˜approachable, pragmatic’ Sophie Lucas β€˜combines empathy and common sense with technical expertise’; the β€˜pragmatic and considered’ Matthew Francis has β€˜excellent knowledge and technical expertise’; and senior associates Kylie Bates (β€˜efficient and knowledgeable’), Hugh King (β€˜excellent on technical matters’) and Andrew Moore (β€˜diligent and pragmatic’) are recommended. The team advised Peak Reinsurance on a NZ$43.75m earthquake cover dispute in which it is alleged that Tower Insurance failed to disclose material matters before engaging in a contract for adverse development cover. Holden and Moore also acted for Zurich Australian Insurance in High Court proceedings claiming breach of duty of good faith in settlements of claims arising from the Canterbury earthquakes.

Specialist litigation firm Gilbert Walker is best known for its expertise in complex, high-value insurance and professional liability disputes and one client calls it β€˜the best in the earthquake litigation space’. It provides β€˜excellent service and is very proactive and responsive to clients’ needs’. Its lawyers are β€˜experts in the field of insurance litigation’ and clients highlight Martin Smith, Iva Rosic and β€˜excellent advocate’ Matthew Harris as β€˜easy to deal with, well organised and able to communicate clearly on complicated issues’. Associates Alexander Ho and Sam McMullan are recommended. Highlights included defending Martin Warminger on instruction from his liability insurer in a high-profile case brought by the Financial Markets Authority that alleged market manipulation. Smith also acted for Perpetual Trust as former Securities Act trustee of Capital+Merchant Finance in the defence of a NZ$93m negligence claim brought by the receivers of CMF.

β€˜They go beyond simple answers and you can really trust their advice’, say clients of Auckland firm Hesketh Henry, which has an insurance litigation team that acts for domestic and international insurers such as AIG and Dual. The β€˜very experienced and knowledgeable’ Brett Morley β€˜resolves issues quickly and effectively’ and co-leads the team with experienced litigator Alan Sherlock, who has a strong focus on maritime and insurance law. Partners Nick Gillies, Simon Cartwright and Christina Bryant are also recommended. The team is defending Vero and AA Insurance in High Court Earthquake List matters, including a NZ$3m claim. A further highlight saw the firm advise Vero in a High Court test case that raises questions around the scope of a private insurer’s obligations to credit hire companies, including the extent to which the insurer of the at-fault driver in a motor vehicle accident will be liable to pay the costs associated with the innocent party obtaining a replacement vehicle.

The team at MinterEllisonRuddWatts regularly handles complex and large-scale insurance disputes involving individuals, financial institutions, corporates and public sector entities. In Auckland, Andrew Horne leads the practice and has more than 20 years’ experience acting for leading insurers and brokers such as AIG, Allianz and Marsh. He acted for business and private insurer MAS in a test case with major significance for buildings insurance, which examined the issue of whether earthquakes weaken reinforcing steel bars in reinforced concrete buildings that may lead to their demolition. Experienced litigator and trial lawyer Zane Kennedy is highly active in insurance disputes and financial services and Jeremy Muir is also recommended. In Wellington, Stacey Shortall, who has extensive experience in regulatory and criminal matters, frequently represents insurers. Special counsel Kara Daly has 25 years’ experience in insurance and financial services.

Robertsons in Auckland provides an β€˜efficient service for specialist insurance work and it is worth every penny’. Its primary focus is liability insurance, which includes professional indemnity and technology liability matters. The team acts for insurers such as QBE and Dual, and is β€˜prompt and thorough with detailed knowledge of insurance issues and the application of policies’. Michael Robertson β€˜provides detailed advice that assists with decision making’ and PI specialist Helen Twomey provides β€˜excellent, thoughtful and considered advice’. In the strong support team, barrister and solicitor Rachael Woods is β€˜very diligent and ensures all bases are covered’. The team advised Ando Insurance and a major manufacturing company on matters arising from an investigation by WorkSafe New Zealand into a workplace accident that caused serious injury to an employee. A further highlight saw the firm help to develop specialist indemnity insurance for the use of drones.

Simpson Grierson provides a β€˜high-level service that is good value for money’. Robert Gapes in Auckland is a leading product liability lawyer and fellow team co-head Helen Smith in Christchurch is β€˜particularly excellent in construction PI and is great at dispute resolution’. Auckland-based litigator Jania Baigent has a growing reputation for claims management and insurance disputes. Wellington-based John Shackleton acted for Wellington City Council in a NZ$9m High Court case against liability mutual fund Riskpool that contested the declinature of cover for a leaky building claim for a multi-unit apartment complex. For Fidelity Life Assurance, which is one of the country’s largest providers of life insurance, the firm advised on High Court proceedings involving a claim for breach of contract by the client arising from its refusal to pay trauma benefit under one of its policies. The firm also acted for global insurance company Fairfax Financial Holdings in corporate and regulatory matters.

Wynn Williams is known for β€˜reliable specialist advice on insurance litigation from a knowledgeable team’ and clients also note its β€˜very good service and value for money’. In Christchurch, head of litigation Jeremy Johnson and insurance co-head Emily Walton are β€˜strong on litigation strategy and have the ability to understand and discuss technical matters’. In Auckland, the β€˜very personable and approachable’ insurance team co-head Richard Hern β€˜has very detailed knowledge of the real estate industry’ and associate Sarah Ulmer β€˜takes a measured approach that is practical and clear’. Johnson acted for the plaintiff in a dispute with a government insurer arising from the Canterbury earthquakes, which focused on issues relating to repairs to a NZ$3m property and which raised questions around the applicability of the MBIE geotechnical guidelines to foundation repairs. Hern represented a private insurer in a NZ$1.6m professional indemnity case.

Russell McVeagh fields a multidisciplinary team that combines expertise from its corporate, finance, litigation, regulatory and competition practices. It advises corporate clients on large and complex claims and policy structures. Its key clients include Trustpower Limited, Suncorp, Vero Insurance, IAG New Zealand and Precinct Properties. In Auckland, litigation partners Sarah Armstrong and Marika Eastwick-Field are recommended. With corporate partner Joe Windmeyer they advised Trustpower on its demerger into two listed companies, which included complex insurance sector matters, including changes to a captive insurance programme for assets with a value exceeding NZ$2.4bn. Corporate partners Pip Greenwood, who advised Suncorp on takeover matters, is also recommended. In Wellington, finance partner Tom Hunt and Guy Lethbridge are also involved in insurance matters.

Litigation boutique Wilson Harle in Auckland now has four partners who handle insurance matters as part of their dispute resolution practices in Ian Denton, Chris Browne, Allison Ferguson and newly promoted Felicity Monteiro. Insurance, including maritime law, is a core practice area for the team and its client base comprises numerous international insurers. The firm regularly advises longstanding client Marsh on both contentious and non-contentious matters, and last year handled four disputes for life and disability insurer Fidelity Life Assurance. It was appointed by the D&O indemnity insurers of a Crown agency to handle a breach of contract case.

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