Dermot Woolgar has a broad practice, with particular expertise in the fields of commercial law, international commercial arbitration, professional negligence, property damage, and public and administrative law.
Dermot advises and appears as a party advocate in both domestic and international arbitrations, and before English domestic courts in connection with disputes arising out of arbitrations. In 2011 – 2012 he obtained the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators’ Diploma in International Commercial Arbitration.
In addition to acting as a party advocate, he regularly accepts appointments to sit as an arbitrator. He acts as sole arbitrator or as a panel member in a broad range of disputes, reflecting his knowledge and experience in diverse fields of practice.
- Acting for an English company in ICC proceedings in Delhi connection with a c£20m product liability dispute with an Indian manufacturer concerning the design and manufacture of miniature circuit breakers (with Andrew Rigney QC).
- Advising defendants, including substantial US manufacturer, being sued in the Bombay High Court for unpaid commission of EUR400k and damages of INR40m as to merits of anti-suit injunction from Commercial Court in London on the basis of an arbitration agreement between one of the defendants and the plaintiff which provides for ICC arbitration of disputes in London (with Andrew Rigney QC).
- Advising German manufacturer / designer of evaporation cooling system installed in steel plant in South Wales to recover EUR3.8m outstanding from purchaser; purchaser defending claim on grounds that system was performing inadequately and as a result had cross-claim against manufacturer for damages for breach of contract of approximately EUR3m. Arbitration agreement provided for ICC arbitration in London.
- Omnibridge Consulting Ltd v Clearsprings (Management) Ltd  EWHC 2276 (Comm)  ArbLR 48 – Acting in a domestic arbitration in connection with a bonus dispute arising out of a consultancy agreement, and in ensuing challenge and cross-challenge to the Commercial Court concerning breaches of the arbitrator’s section 33 Arbitration Act 1996 powers and duties.
- Aldcroft v International Cotton Association (2015 – 2016) – Acting for cotton arbitrator in Commercial Court challenging rules of arbitral institution that limit the number of appointments that may be accepted on the grounds that they are unenforceable at common law for being in restraint of trade.
- Whitworths Ltd v Synergy Food Ingredients & Processing BV  EWHC 4239 (Comm) – Acting for English company in Commercial Court on application for interim, and then permanent, anti-arbitration injunction to restrain Dutch supplier of almond meal from pursuing arbitration before specialist Board of Arbitration in Holland, in breach of arbitration agreement providing for arbitration of disputes before specialist tribunal in England; related applications concerning the contempt of the respondent arising from its failure to obey interim injunction (with Andrew Rigney QC). Successfully represented English company before Board of Arbitration in Amsterdam and Appeal Board of Arbitration in Rotterdam.
- Emmott v Michael Wilson & Partners Ltd  EWHC 3690 (Comm) – Acting for Central Asian legal consultancy in Commercial Court seeking to resist freezing injunction in aid of arbitration proceedings. Subject matter of freezing injunction was defendant’s alleged holding in Kazakh cement company and monies lodged in support of bank guarantees to support related proceedings brought by the defendant in New South Wales. Major issue was whether claimant had obtained bank guarantees from a defendant in the Australian proceedings in breach of the Harman undertaking (the implied undertaking against the collateral use of documents obtained in litigation). Subsequent dispute about reopening summary assessment of costs conducted on pape.
Dermot undertakes a wide range of commercial disputes, principally in the following fields:
Banking & Financial Services
Most aspects including bank’s duties, banking securities, investment advice, cheques and other negotiable instruments, mortgagees’ duties, financial misselling claims, consumer credit, and FSMA-regulated activities (for example applications for guidance, collective investment schemes, deposit-taking, prohibitions on financial promotions, and the regulatory obligations of insurers and insurance intermediaries).
Bankruptcy & Insolvency Law
All aspects of both personal and corporate insolvency, including individual and company voluntary arrangements, administration and receivership.
All aspects, but especially insurance, arbitration, agency including commercial agents disputes, contracts of guarantee and indemnity, confidentiality, directors’ duties, private international law, franchise agreements, carriage of goods, asset leases and mortgages of chattels, shareholder and partnership disputes.
All aspects, especially domestic and international sale of goods and associated product liability disputes, exclusion and limitation of liability clauses, bailment, contract drafting, contracts of compromise, employment contracts, contracts in restraint of trade and other competition issues, consumer credit.
Dermot regularly advises, and appears as advocate in the High Court, in connection with applications for injunctions and other forms of urgent relief. Typically these are applications for domestic and worldwide asset freezing orders, anti-suit and anti-arbitration injunctions, applications to restrain actual or threatened conduct in breach of contract, applications to enforce employment covenants, applications to restrain the presentation or advertisement of winding up and bankruptcy petitions, and applications to restrain activities in breach of regulatory regimes such as that under FSMA 2000.
- Aldcroft v International Cotton Association (2015 – 2016) – Acting for cotton arbitrator in Commercial Court seeking to restrain arbitral institution from determining disciplinary proceedings pending trial. Arbitrator is challenging the rules upon which the disciplinary proceedings are founded on the grounds that they are in restraint of trade.
- ST v R (2015) – Acting for wealthy Russian national seeking to set aside asset-freezing injunction in aid of proceedings in another court in which solicitors were suing for unpaid fees and disbursements.
- Whitworths Ltd v Synergy Food Ingredients & Processing BV  EWHC 4239 (Comm) – Acting for English company on applications for interim, and then permanent, anti-arbitration injunction to restrain Dutch company from pursuing arbitration before specialist Board of Arbitration in Holland, in breach of arbitration agreement providing for arbitration of disputes before specialist tribunal in England (with Andrew Rigney QC).
- Gorbunova v Berezovsky & Ors (2014) – Acting for French company, owner of substantial chateau and grounds, to vary terms of asset-freezing order to enable property to be sold and for directions as to application of proceeds of sale.
- MS Ltd v R Ltd (2014) – Application for an interim order for delivery up under section 4 of the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 and CPR rule 25.1(1)(e) of assembly-line machinery used in manufacture of commercial vehicles.
- G Ltd v P Ltd (2013) – Application to restrain respondent from implementing notice purporting to terminate contract on grounds that palletised transport distribution services had not been provided to key performance contractual standards.
- SEV Ltd v HMRC (2012) – Application to adjourn winding up petition pending IPO on NASDAQ of stock of US parent company which would raise funds to meet balance of petition debt.
- Dunn Motors Ltd v National Express Ltd – Acting for claimant in c£10m breach of contract claim arising from decision of national coach operator to terminate contract to provide coach services on the ground of alleged failures to comply with relevant EU regulations concerning drivers’ hours.
- Ramsey Steamship Co Ltd v Trustees of the Merchant Navy Officers Pension Scheme – Acting for the Isle of Man liquidator of an historical member of the Merchant Navy Officers Pension Scheme as to whether he should admit in the liquidation a proof of debt from the trustees of the scheme in respect of the member’s liability to contribute to a significant deficit in the pension fund following court-approved amendments to the scheme’s rules and, if the proof should be admitted, in what amount. Case concerned the proper construction of the amendments to the scheme rules and whether they were intended to impose liability in effect retrospectively for a deficit that had accrued after the member had ceased to be under any obligation to make contributions to the scheme, and the evaluation of the scheme’s actuary’s calculations of the extent of the deficit, the sums required to make good the deficit, the member’s share of that sum, and interest.
- Flights Hallmark Ltd v National Express Ltd – Acting for claimant in c£2m claim for breach of contract against national coach operator in respect of early termination of contracts to provide coach services from Midlands to 3 London airports. Complex issues about construction of contracts, and in particular the dispute escalation and termination provisions, and the use of performance evidence to justify the decision to terminate.
- Kilkenny v NPI Ltd – Acting for financial services company-defending claim for allegedly negligent misselling of equity release product.
- Advising residential property plc as to whether investment arrangements, which were used to fund the acquisitions of residential properties as part of a substantial, national, equity release scheme were unregulated collective investment schemes.
- Hanover Maloney (UK) Ltd v Allelys Heavy Haulage – Acting for goods-in-transit insurers in successful claim against sub-carriers to recover outlay where insured’s title to goods which were the subject of an FOB contract of sale was possessory only. Also involved questions about limitation of liability under the RHA Conditions of Carriage and common law obligations of carriers of abnormal loads.
- ASHS Ltd v Hip Kin Retailing Ltd – Advising fashion designer in connection with a dispute concerning the construction of an option in a franchise agreement relating to the territory of Hong Kong and its effect on proposed franchises relating to China.
- Foster Bryant Surveying Ltd & Anr v Bryant & Ors  EWHC 1232 (QB) – Action against former director for account of profits and damages arising from alleged breach of fiduciary duty in diverting business opportunity / damages for breach of shareholders’ agreement; also claims for inducing breach of fiduciary duty.
- Acting for director in substantial Chancery Division claim by syndicate of banks for misrepresentation arising from MBO of pharmaceutical business.
- Greene King Plc v Stanley & Others  BPIR 49 – Acting for brewers in claim to enforce charge against sureties – sureties unsuccessfully defending claim in CA on grounds that they were released from charge by reason of implementation of IVA by principal debtor – sureties successfully defending claim on grounds of undue influence and misrepresentation.
All aspects of construction and engineering disputes, including related insurance disputes, for contractors, employers and insurers.
He is the co-author of the chapter in Emden’s Construction Law on construction insolvency.
- Acting for defendant oil companies in relation to various substantial commercial property damage and business interruption claims arising out of the Buncefield Oil Storage Depot explosion.
- Acting for construction company concerning allegedly negligent design, failure to warn, and defective works at a new marina.
- Acting for UK / Malaysian steel fabricators in claim against Malaysian steel suppliers for defective goods and delays in delivery.
- Advising property investment company as to merits of potential claims for loss and damage arising from failure of defendant fully to implement environmental remediation works on substantial commercial / retail site.
- Advising a national house builder as to the enforceability of charges taken as security for equity loans
- Oakapple Homes (Glossop) Ltd v DTR (2009) Ltd (In Liquidation) & Ors  Lloyd’s Rep IR 103; (2013) 29 Const LJ 523;  EWHC 2394 (TCC) – Acting for property developer of part-commercial, part-residential, building destroyed by fire. Fire allegedly worsened by design errors committed by architect. Property developer sought specific performance of architect’s obligation to execute collateral warranties in favour of residential lessees. Warranties contained restrictions on architect’s liability to the beneficiaries and architect’s PI policy excluded liability for most claims arising out of a collateral warranty. Court required to determine architect’s PI insurers’ contentions that architect would be entitled to rely on the contributory negligence of the contractor as a partial defence to any claim under the warranty.
- Pinnacle Developments Ltd & Anr v Donban Contracting Ltd – Acting for building contractor successfully resisting claim that it should be compelled to release its charge over a substantial hotel and residential development in London. Charge taken as security for employer / developer’s payment obligations under a JCT Design and Build contract. Employer / developer offering alternative security which building contractor considered to be unsatisfactory.
All aspects of non-marine insurance, including disputes concerning the construction of policy conditions, materiality of non-disclosure, extent of insurable interests, fraudulent claims, subrogated claims and general coverage disputes.
Dermot regularly acts in a wide range of professional negligence claims. Because of his long experience in commercial, chancery and property-related disputes, his cases predominantly concern claims in these and related fields. He advises in connection with and conducts claims concerning solicitors, barristers and licensed conveyancers; surveyors, valuers, planning consultants and architects; financial advisers, accountants, and other finance professionals; brokers and other insurance professionals.
- Acting for claimant in substantial claim against solicitors for ineffective drafting of break notice, which left claimant with unwanted lease of large office premises.
- Acting for freehold proprietors and their insurers of substantial part residential and part commercial / retail building in action against construction company and building design company under Defective Premises Act 1972 and in negligence concerning defective design and construction of primary and secondary supports for mechanical, electrical and public health installations and fire stopping system that caused fracturing of soil vent pipes and substantial flooding; additional claim against architects under Defective Premises Act and in negligence for failing to reject design.
- Acting for proprietors of newly-constructed townhouse against construction company under Defective Premises Act for failures concerning capping off of drainage pipe which permitted entry of waste into the property on the failure of a pumped waste collection system.
- Acting for property developers in claim against solicitors and architects / planning consultants arising from allegedly negligent conduct of purchase of, and subsequent residential redevelopment of, former commercial site.
- Acting for company in successfully mediated claim against firm of surveyors appointed by insurers for negligent insurance valuation concerning commercial premises subsequently damaged by fire.
- Acting for London hotel proprietors in claim against solicitors for negligent advice in connection with the purchase of a hotel.
- Advising mortgagees in connection with claim against surveyors for allegedly negligent overvaluation of residential property.
- Advising landlord in connection with claim against former managing agents for failing to warn of disrepair.
- Advising Dutch company on merits of claim against liquidators for misfeasance.
- Claim against trading standards department of local authority for allegedly negligent advice concerning regulations governing operation of an unlicensed slaughterhouse.
- Claim against insurance brokers concerning advice given in connection with completion of proposal for critical illness insurance.
- Claim against solicitors concerning failure to warn purchaser of agricultural and development property about public rights of way.
- Claim against solicitors concerning allegedly negligent disposal of share portfolio.
- Defending solicitor-executor in claim by beneficiary of valuable estate under Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act; solicitor-executor alleged to be personally liable for consequences of premature distribution of substantial part of estate and for failing to adopt a neutral stance; related claims for alleged negligence concerning failure to give advice about deed of variation to minimise exposure to IHT.
- Page v Champion Financial Management Ltd & Ors  EWHC 1778 (QB) – Acting for claimant against various companies within an IFA group in respect of allegedly defective advice concerning tax avoidance film partnership and music recording artist partnership schemes. Complaints included inadequate steps to establish the client’s objectives and his attitude to investment risk; whether or not misrepresentations had been made to the client about the extent to which the schemes had HMRC approval; whether or not there had been manipulation of forms after they had been completed by the claimant; and as to the extent of liability under s39 of FSMA. Case is reported on a procedural issue – whether a default judgment against one defendant is binding on another defendant in the same action.
Dermot has extensive experience of property damage cases arising from floods, fire, explosions, landslips, heave and subsidence.
- MBL Construction Law Conference 2019 – London
- “Practical completion” considered by Court of Appeal for first time in 50 years
- Diploma in International Commercial Arbitration, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
- LLB (Hons), Manchester University
- Administrative Law Bar Association
- Commercial Bar Association
- London Common Law & Commercial Bar Association
- London Court of International Arbitration
- Professional Negligence Bar Association
“Dermot is one of the most methodical barristers I have ever come across. He is positive in his advice and has an excellent calming manner which is very reassuring to clients.”
Legal 500, 2021