Insurance & Reinsurance
Nicole has practised exclusively as a contentious defence and insurance coverage lawyer for more than 25 years. She specialises in professional indemnity, financial lines and directors and officers insurance, trade credit insurance and acts in defence and coverage disputes.
Nicole is "very highly regarded" and "a responsive practitioner with high technical skills in this area."
Chambers & Partners, Insurance, 2021
Nicole is an experienced litigator. Her expertise includes acting as defence counsel in class actions and Royal Commission representation, providing complex coverage representation for primary and excess markets across financial lines, D&O, professional indemnity, catastrophe cover and trade credit.
Her practice also includes advising on regulatory investigations, fidelity matters and commercial disputes. She has a reputation for excellent formulation of legal strategy, and has significant experience in leading large scale multiparty litigation in superior courts.
Clients trust Nicole with their most difficult and complex matters. She is renowned for being accessible and responsive in catering to client needs and providing clients with confidence in the management of their most significant disputes and financial risks. She is renowned for her indemnity and coverage work and often appointed to advise in the most complex of insurance coverage roles.
Over the past 12 years Nicole has regularly acted as defence counsel in defence of consumer class actions and major torts. Nicole acted for the State of Victoria and its reinsurers in the class actions arising out of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfire. As a lead partner Nicole was responsible for managing a significant team of lawyers, Counsel and experts. Nicole was responsible for leading the day to day management of the litigation, defence strategy, trial preparation, advice with Counsel and engagement with all stakeholders. Nicole is frequently involved in a project management role on large contentious disputes and is known for her no nonsense and practical approach to litigation.
Nicole also regularly acts in regulatory proceedings brought by the ACCC, ASIC and Director of Consumer Affairs and by disciplinary bodies. She is experienced in managing Corporations Act and financial services litigation including misleading and deceptive conduct claims and consumer class actions. Nicole has expertise in advising on inquiries, including IBAC and ASIC investigations and in representation before disciplinary boards and tribunals.
She acts as coverage counsel in securities class actions, consumer class actions and regulatory investigations and prosecutions. Nicole provides regulatory, risk and governance advice to leading Australian insurers and is a trusted adviser.
Nicole has acted in coverage disputes and defence counsel in high profile matters including before the High Court of Australia, Full Federal Court and appellate courts in NSW and Victoria.
Nicole advises and acts for Australian insurers, London market underwriters and reinsurers, government departments and agencies and third party claims administrators.
Nicole has a strong practice in construction litigation and financial institutions litigation. She has been involved in catastrophic liability and significant property damage claims, including recovery actions. In addition to acting for contractors in disputes with principals she acts in defence of professionals including architects, building surveyors, building inspectors, land surveyors, valuers, estate agents, landscape architects, structural, geotechnical and civil engineers, liquidators and administrators, financial advisers, licensees, insurance agents and brokers, barristers, solicitors, life agents, town planners, accountants and tax agents.
Nicole is recognised as a leading practitioner for Insurance by Chambers & Partners, Legal 500 and Best Lawyers. She is also listed as a leading Professional Indemnity Lawyer – Victoria 2021 by Doyle's Guide and is recommended by Legal 500 for Litigation.
Royal Commissions & Inquiries: Acting for leading life insurer representing its interests during the Financial Services Royal Commission headed by Commissioner Hayne.
Class Action: Acting for life insurer in defence of representative proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia brought by consumers who purchased credit insurance and alleged its sale amounted to unconscionable conduct. The action was one of the first proceedings to be filed after the Royal Commission Report into Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services was handed down. The claim involved unique allegations of unconscionable conduct against a manufacturer of credit insurance products and is continuing. Nicole leads the team of defence counsel and has driven the strategy and negotiations which have resulted in an excellent resolution which is currently subject to court approval.
Coverage: Acting for the insurer in the seminal High Court of Australia authority on the duty of utmost good faith. The claim involved conduct by the insured in settling claims in circumstances where indemnity was reserved but where the insurer had identified to the insured defences available to it. Ultimately the High Court of Australia, by majority decision, found in favour of Nicole's client and delivered its considered analysis of the duty of utmost good faith.
Regulatory: Acting for insurers in responding to ASIC Notices for production of records including managing a team of lawyers, identifying and preparing responses to ASIC and providing advice to the insurer client.
Defence: Acting as joint lead partner in defence of the State of Victoria in the Black Saturday Bushfire class actions. Nicole was responsible for managing a team of up to 40 Counsel and 30 lawyers in defending the largest major tort class action proceedings in the Victorian history. The Kilmore Black Saturday proceeding ultimately proceeded to a full trial before resolving shortly before judgement was delivered. Her role required her to provide substantive advice to the State, its insurers and reinsurers, and engage with various government and statutory authority stakeholders. She was particularly responsible for defence of the duty to warn allegations and preparation of the loss analysis for personal injury claimants. Nicole was intimately involved in the ultimate resolution of each class including the detailed settlement agreements and court approval process.
Inquiry: Representing a manager in a section 19 examination by ASIC. ASIC was investigating the manager's alleged breach of various Corporations Act provisions following the insolvency of a managed fund. The reputational risk for the client was significant. Prior to the examination by ASIC, oral submissions were made to the Commission which ultimately resulted in the ASIC agreeing not to proceed with the examination.
Coronial Inquiry: Representing a private hospital in the coronial investigation into the death of an elderly patient who died following complications of knee replacement surgery. Nicole and her team engaged with the coroner, prepared witness statements and produced documents for the coroner's brief.
Insurance & Reinsurance
Projects & Construction
Regulatory & Investigations