26 September 2019

The annual Professional Negligence Lawyers Association (PNLA) conference took place on September 26th at Stephens Green, Hibernian Club, Dublin City Centre. The one-day conference was aimed at lawyers and professionals such as accountants, engineers and architects, seeking an update on professional negligence and liability law and practice. The conference addressed topics such as the legal implications of Brexit for businesses, the claims culture in Ireland and the resurgence of the construction industry.

One of Ireland’s leading law firms, Holmes O’ Malley Sexton sponsored and supported the event for the second year in a row. Harry Fehily, Managing Partner with the firm gave the opening address. Mr. Fehily has extensive experience of advising clients across a range of contentious and non-contentious matters with an emphasis on commercial litigation, professional negligence, property related disputes and shareholders' disputes.

Mr. Fehily stated, “The legal implications of Brexit for professionals was an obvious topic to be discussed, but we also heard from leading legal and insurance professionals on current trends and future forecasts.”

Mr. Fehily added, “As the construction industry is enjoying a strong resurgence thanks to the current buoyant Irish economy, we had a particular emphasis on this industry. With increased opportunities in this sector, comes increased potential for professional negligence cases and we need to be prepared.”

Mr. Justice Gerard Hogan, Advocate General, European Court of Justice, chaired the conference. In recent months Mr. Justice Hogan, who is a former High Court Judge and who has been in his position in Brussels since 2018, has been very vocal on the implications of Brexit for the legal profession given the centuries-long ties between the Irish and English legal system, and his deep insights into this topic at the conference were very valuable to delegates.

Speaking on the conference Mr. Justice Hogan stated, “As the Brexit deadline draws closer, the impact for the Irish legal system will be considerable and remains unpredictable, depending on the ultimate form that Brexit will take. Irish legal practitioners may over time have to react to the pressure for codification in large areas of private law presently covered by traditional common law rules and case-law and existing novel legislative measures such as the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive, which will become even more critical in areas such as contract law or banking law.”

Mr. Justice Hogan continued, “The scope and pace of this change could be significant for those dealing with the corpus of CJEU jurisprudence in a range of areas from family law to European Arrest Warrants to copyright. Those who respond most effectively to the new post-Brexit landscape will inevitably manage their risk more successfully than those who do not look to adapt."

He concluded, “The magnitude of change, post-Brexit, to the fabric and structure of our legal system could well be significant in the absence of the United Kingdom and all practitioners might well wish to reflect on this for their own practice areas.”

Michael Carrigan, Consultant Solicitor, Holmes O’Malley Sexton addressed the conference on the topic of ‘The role of the independent expert solicitor in professional negligence cases.’ Michael specialises in commercial property, professional negligence and dispute resolution.

The question of whether Ireland currently has a claims culture problem was raised by Rossa Fanning, Senior Counsel practising in Dublin in the field of civil and commercial litigation.

Also speaking at the conference were a selection of eminent speakers, drawn from a wide range of perspectives and disciplines, each of whom provided expertise and insights on industry developments, best international practices and future trends. Speakers included; Simon Wilton, Junior Counsel, Hailsham Chambers; Kellie Smith, Barrister at Law; Declan O’Rourke, General Manager, AIG Ireland; Damian Kilpatrick, Managing Director, Aon Ireland and Michael Davis, Director of Financial & Professional Services, Aon Ireland; Tony Reddy, Director, Reddy Architecture + Urbanism.

For further information on the Conference please visit www.pnla.org.uk.

For further information on Holmes O’Malley Sexton please visit www.homs.ie