Sharon is a partner and head of the Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department at Matheson. She is also head of the Insurance Law Group.
Sharon’s practice by its nature involves large scale disputes for companies including insurance companies many of whom are large financial institutions. These disputes are litigated in the Commercial Court and many are being resolved through mediation. Sharon is a strong advocate of alternative dispute resolution, which provides the means to resolve disputes in a cost effective, time efficient, confidential and creative manner.
Given the regulated nature of insurance, Sharon and her group provide crisis management advice for clients dealing with investigations and enquiries from the Financial Regulator, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and the Gardaí. Sharon has handled numerous administrative sanctions cases for financial institutions.
Sharon is a member of the International Bar Association and is country chair for the litigation committee. She is a council member of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Copyright Association of Ireland and the International Association for the Protection of Industrial Property. Sharon lectures in the Law Society on the Commercial Court and mediation and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences.
Sharon has been involved in:
University College Dublin, Bachelor of Commerce
Two separate bills making their way through the legislative process propose to extend the limitation period for complaints to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO). The first bill proposes to strengthen the functions of and amend the limitation period for bringing complaints to the FSO, while the second and more comprehensive bill proposes to amend the limitation period for bringing complaints to the office in certain circumstances.
Large corporates based in Ireland typically have a suite of non-life insurance policies to cover a variety of risks. Given the fact that the UK insurance market is the biggest in the European Union, it is likely that at least some of the policies held by corporates based in Ireland will have been written by UK or Gibraltar-licensed insurers. As such, whatever form Brexit ultimately takes, Irish policyholders with policies written by UK insurers must assess any risk to (among other things) their ability to renew.
The High Court recently confirmed that third-party rights against insurers in Ireland are restricted, providing comfort for insurers in the context of solicitors' professional indemnity insurance. The decision is consistent with recent confirmation from the authorities that third parties have no direct right of action against insurers. To the extent that a specific statutory provision permits a restricted right of action, the insured defendant's liability must be established in the first instance.
The Court of Appeal recently ruled in a case which considered the 'real rate of return' discount which would be applied to an injured plaintiff's future care costs. When quantifying future losses in personal injury actions, future care costs may now be discounted by only 1% and as a result underwriters will be ordered to pay out higher lump-sum damages awards. There is likely to be a knock-on effect which will see underwriters increasing premiums.
The Court of Appeal recently overturned a High Court ruling that the insolvent plaintiff's after-the-event (ATE) insurance could effectively substitute security for costs. The court accepted that an ATE insurance policy could provide security for costs in principle. However, it did not accept that the policy in question provided sufficient security. The decision was influenced by the existence of a condition precedent.
Fifty percent of complaints made to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) in 2013 related to insurance. For the first time since 2007, there has been a significant decrease in the number of complaints made, although complaints requiring formal investigation have increased. The FSO welcomed the reduction in complaints but highlighted that payment protection insurance continues to be a concern.
The High Court recently found that it was unnecessary to provide documents prepared in anticipation of repudiation of a life insurance policy, as the documents were protected by litigation privilege. Litigation privilege protects confidential documents assembled with the purpose of preparing for a litigation. Insurers should keep in mind that they may wish to claim privilege over confidential documentation prepared during an investigation.
Two recent High Court decisions have provided much-needed clarification as to the scope and operation of Section 62 of the Civil Liability Act 1961. The decisions related to applications by insurers to strike out the claim against them on the basis that no reasonable cause of action was disclosed. Both insurers were successful.
The High Court recently had its first opportunity to consider whether after-the-event insurance policies could effectively substitute security for costs. The ruling demonstrates that the courts will accept after-the-event insurance and will not award security for costs against a plaintiff that has taken out after-the-event cover, provided that policies do not contain terms by which the insurer can avoid liability to pay the defendant's costs.
Defender v HSBC highlights the need for plaintiffs to understand the blameworthiness of all wrongdoers before settling a claim against any of them. This case concerned Defender, a fund which invested with Bernard Madoff and subsequently suffered a loss when Madoff was revealed to be operating the world's largest Ponzi scheme.
Two new statutory instruments (SI 254/2016 and SI 255/2016), which make wide-ranging reforms to the procedural rules applicable to civil litigation, recently entered into force. However, a number of the rules contained in SI 255 are dependent on the assignment of list judges and registrars to the chancery and non-jury lists. The High Court has stated that it does not intend to assign either list judges or registrars until the necessary resources have been put in place.
A number of recent High Court decisions considered the concept of 'no transaction' damages in cases involving professional negligence. The courts have confirmed that the correct approach in no transaction cases is to determine whether the negligent act resulted in the occurence of the transaction.