Dispute Resolution & Litigation: 2022 Year in Review
As we come to the end of another busy year that has again presented us all with some unexpected challenges, our National Dispute Resolution and Litigation team reflects on significant achievements, developments and industry trends and looks forward to what the year ahead may have in store.
“2022 has seen the welcome return of in-person hearings but the developments in technology which emerged to respond to the pandemic will have a lasting beneficial effect. The coming year will likely see further focus on climate related litigation, and litigation from the fallout of cyber security attacks.”
Anne Freeman – Practice Team leader
“Australian firms have done well in 2022 relative to global firms facing recession, rising costs and competition and are well poised for growth in cross-border litigation in the areas of human rights (e.g., modern slavery), tort, consumer laws and corporate disclosure laws. Work practices are regularising and whilst hybrid arrangements are likely to stay, good management and supervision will be key for firms.”
Ian Nathaniel – Practice Team Leader
Throughout 2022, we have seen a number of new emerging priorities, and subsequently, a number of changes in the dispute resolution and litigation space.
The prioritisation of ESG for businesses and regulators continues to shape the industry, as it forms one of the globe’s most critical and ongoing transformational tasks. The rising scrutiny on greenwashing allegations – stemming from Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) Chair Joe Longo at the AICD Australian Governance Summit earlier in the year – has formed a growing trend of refocusing on corporate governance and the impact business operations have on climate change. The increase of climate-related risk consequently means we will see a rise in litigation, particularly around the aforementioned greenwashing and misleading ‘net-zero’ claims.
We saw the use of Legal Professional Privilege protections face increased scrutiny by the Federal Court of Australia earlier in the year. This scrutiny highlighted the importance of clear and well-structured engagement documentation within multidisciplinary practices and their clientele.
In the class actions space, we’ve seen some movement in how the Courts award aggregate damages in a funded representative proceeding – particularly regarding guidance on how the Court will approach claims where only part of the claim is suitable for determination on an aggregate basis. Williams v Toyota Motor Corporation Australia Limited (Initial Trial)  FCA 344 was the catalyst for this movement, and the judgement is liable to spur a trend in claims for aggregate damages.
As we look forward to the coming year, we anticipate the developments in class actions, including dusting off the ALRC recommendations which had been shelved by the previous Government, and the increase in climate change litigation being the issues affecting the dispute resolution and litigation environment.
The team celebrated the promotions of Kelly Fraser (Special Counsel, Brisbane), Isabelle Gatley (Senior Associate, Adelaide), Natalie Miller (Senior Associate, Sydney), Jimmy Taing (Senior Associate, Sydney), and Ben Tollner-Atkinson (Senior Associate, Adelaide) throughout 2022.
We welcomed Meriel Steadman (Partner) and Roselina Kruize (Senior Associate) in our Perth office; Judith Hishon (Special Counsel), Emma Baker (Senior Associate), and Neha Pillalamarri (Senior Associate) in our Brisbane office; and Tanaya Patel (Associate) and Piyush Bohara (Associate) in our Sydney office. Additionally, we welcomed 12 Law Clerks and 6 Lawyers across the country. The National team has certainly seen substantial growth in our numbers, and we are excited to see our team continue to deliver excellent service to our fantastic clients.
Throughout the year, we continued to represent and advise our clients, across various industries and dispute types, including:
Queensland Energy Class Action (LCM Finance)
Currently acting on the largest energy class action in Australian history. The claim is being brought against Stanwell Corporation Limited and CS Energy Limited on behalf of all electricity consumers in Queensland (roughly 1.7 million residential and 440,000 business consumers).
Continuing to act for Zoetis Australia defending a $53 million class action brought by the owners of horses which were administered with the Hendra Virus vaccine developed by Zoetis, who allege the horses suffered side effects from the vaccine.
AMP Class Action (Woodsford Litigation Funding)
Acting in a $200m class action against a number of AMP Limited financial advice licensees in which it is claimed that the respondents received conflicted remuneration (including commissions), recommended certain insurance products which attracted excess premiums, and failed to provide any or adequate personal advice with respect to certain financial and insurance products.
Quintis Limited Class Action (LCM Finance)
Representing the lead applicants in a Federal Court securities class action in relation to the collapse of Quintis Limited the world’s largest commercial sandalwood operation. The action involves allegations of Corporations Act contraventions, misleading and deceptive conduct and auditor negligence. The claim is brought against Quintis Limited, its former managing director and CEO, Mr Frank Wilson and Ernst & Young.
Count Financial Class Action (Woodsford Litigation Funding)
Acting in a class action against former CBA subsidiary, Count Financial Ltd (Count), in respect of allegations that Count and its financial advisers contravened best interests and priority obligations owed to customers when taking grandfathered commissions on products that they recommended to their customers.
Bogasi Pty Ltd
Representing a trustee company (Bogasi Pty Ltd) in relation to proceedings concerning the beneficial ownership of significant trust assets. The claim relates, amongst other things, to the construction of a Will of the late patriarch of the Sundell family. The assets in dispute are in the order of more than $50 million.
Maxi EFX Global
Acting in relation to $50 million Federal Court Proceedings brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in relation to alleged breaches of the Corporations Act and Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act by Maxi EFX Global in the conduct of Forex and CFD trading.
Ushant Pty Ltd & Ors
Acting for all ten defendants, including Ushant Pty Ltd in Victorian Supreme Court Commercial Court proceedings relating to the sale of a series of retail businesses and properties forming part of the Peter Stevens Group. The claim involves breach of contract allegations against our clients and the plaintiffs amongst other things, seek specific performance of a Share Sale Agreement and damages in lieu thereof. Piper Alderman is instrumental in raising the initial pleading issues and preparing Defence.
This year, we have had some outstanding recognition – both for the team and our individuals – across our national dispute resolution & litigation practice team. We are grateful for our clients and colleagues and are looking forward to another successful year in 2023.
The Legal 500 Asia Pacific
In the 2022 edition of The Legal 500 Asia Pacific, Piper Alderman was recognised across 12 areas of law including Dispute Resolution. A number of our team members were highlighted as recommended or key lawyers for this category, including:
The Best Lawyers in Australia
In the 2023 edition of The Best Lawyers in Australia, 52 of Piper Alderman’s lawyers are recognised across 42 legal areas including the following partners in our Dispute Resolution & Litigation team:
- Tony Abbott: Litigation, Trade Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Nick Burkett: Insurance Law, Ethics and Professional Responsibility Practice, Legal Malpractice Litigation
- Anne Freeman: Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Louise Gehrig: Insolvency and Reorganization Law
- Tom Griffith: Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Simon Ward: Defamation and Media Law, Litigation
- Greg Whyte: Insurance Law, Legal Malpractice Litigation, Litigation
- James Nunn: Alternative Dispute Resolution & Litigation – One to Watch
- Kate Sambrook: Alternative Dispute Resolution – One to Watch
- Hannah Veldre: Alternative Dispute Resolution & Litigation – One to Watch
- Timothy Ward: Alternative Dispute Resolution – One to Watch
- Beau Weigand: Alternative Dispute Resolution & Litigation – One to Watch
We were also delighted to receive some very kind feedback from clients and contacts during the research process for the legal directories, including:
‘Martin del Gallego is very user friendly. He is a good strategic thinker, calm and capable.’ (Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, 2022)
‘Anne Freeman is second to none in client service. Goes above and beyond to maintain the highest quality of legal services and strives for the best outcome. Excellent communication skills, strong leadership and good to work with.’ (Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, 2022)
‘Ian Nathaniel is an approachable and thoughtful lawyer. He is strategic in outlook and practical in approach.’ (Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, 2022)
‘Piper Alderman’s class action team has breadth and depth and covers multiple AU jurisdictions. This makes it a “one stop shop” and obvious go to for funded class actions.’ (Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, 2022)
The Dispute Resolution & Litigation team actively produced and published a number of timely insights while partaking in a multitude of client and industry facing events, sponsorships, and partnerships. Our team was also involved in producing some memorable content for clients and have a fantastic line-up of content for 2023 in the works.