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Robert O’Leary

Call 1990

"An employment liability expert, who has experience of complex matters of significant value. He has handled group action litigations, industrial disease claims and cases relating to stress."
(Chambers & Partners 2016)

Robert O’Leary practises in the fields of personal injury and industrial disease, representing clients throughout the UK. He has acted on behalf of insurers and institutions, including the UK and Welsh governments, as well as individuals and unions. He has experience of conducting cases at all levels, including in the Supreme Court. He is involved in complex cases from early preparation to resolution. He has particular experience in group and multi-party litigation. He also acts in professional negligence actions arising out of personal injuries litigation.

Personal Injury

Robert is recognised as a leading practitioner in personal injury litigation. He has extensive experience in multi-track employers’ liability, Animals Act, assault, road traffic and occupiers’ liability and military cases, often involving injuries of the utmost severity, as well as cases involving fibromyalgia, chronic pain and psychiatric injuries. He regularly deals with cases involving fatalities.

Robert is adept at working as part of a team and is accustomed to dealing with complex expert evidence on issues of liability, causation and quantum. He regularly advises on difficult legal and factual matters, and his input is often sought on the tactical management of cases in which he is involved.

He has experience of dealing with personal injury cases at all levels, including in the Supreme Court. He regularly appears against leading counsel.

Robert acted for the Claimant in one of the leading cases to reach the Supreme Court on vicarious liability: Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 10 (Supreme Court).

He writes the chapter in Munkman on Employer’s Liability dealing with Third Party Violence at Work.

Selected Cases

Robert has dealt with a wide range of cases including:

  • Defence of a claim involving traumatic brain injury sustained by a claimant in a road traffic accident caused when the defendant’s steer escaped onto the highway valued at over £1m.
  • Defence of a £2m claim brought against a public school for complex regional pain syndrome.
  • A fatal accident in which the son of wealthy farmers died in a car accident aged just over 18, involving issues akin to those in the case of Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust v Williams [2008] EWCA Civ 81, which settled for £1m.
  • An ongoing case involving a serious accident in a steelworks and resulting in below knee amputation, valued at in excess of £1.5m.
  • A soldier who suffered extreme bullying during service, and developed severe post-traumatic stress disorder and lost his military career as a result.
  • Defence of an occupiers’ liability claim involving the misuse of disused land and resulting in catastrophic injuries to the Claimant.
  • Highways Act cases, including one where the Claimant was seriously injured whilst riding her bicycle along a defective cycle path.
  • Numerous claims involving third party assaults in the working environment, which are usually document heavy and take days to try.
  • Defence of a fatal accident claim where the deceased suffered a leg fracture as a result of slipping on wet grass at the defendant’s care home, but died as a result of a blood clot caused by a DVT when he flew away on holiday after the accident.
  • Defence of a fibromyalgia claim, which took 10 days to try, and which included issues of causation, acceleration, prognosis, dishonesty and deliberate exaggeration, and which was ultimately dismissed.

The reported decisions in which he has been instructed include:

  • Williams v Hawkes [2017] EWCA Civ 1846 – case dealing with the Animals Act 1971.
  • Cox v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 10 (Supreme Court) [2014] 3 WLR 1036; [2014] ICR 713; [2014] PIQR P17; [2014] EWCA Civ 132, (Court of Appeal) – Vicarious liability of the Ministry of Justice for working prisoners.
  • PIP Breast Implant Litigation – Advising the Welsh Ministers on the recovery of the cost to the NHS of replacing defective implants.
  • McG v T (Court of Appeal, 2010) – RTA in Florida between two UK nationals: settled at Court of Appeal mediation May 2010.
  • Jones v Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council [2009] RTR 13;[2008] EWCA Civ 1497 – Duties under the Highways Act 1980.
  • Ezsias v National Assembly for Wales (2007), Lawtel AC0117319 – Duties of the National Assembly for Wales in respect of data protection.
  • Ball v Street [2005] EWCA Civ 76, [2005] PIQR P22, C.A. – Strict liability under PUWER.
  • Uphill v BRB Residuary [2005] EWCA Civ 60, [2005] 3 All ER 264; Times 8th February 2005; Independent 17th February 2005 – Guidelines case on second appeals.
  • Lewis v National Assembly for Wales (2008), Lawtel AC0116055 – Occupier’s liability in respect of a disused highway in a catastrophic injury case.

Industrial Disease

Robert is recognised as a leading practitioner in occupational disease litigation. He has extensive experience in asbestos related injuries, occupational cancers, occupational asthma, NIHL, stress at work, HAVS and work-related upper limb disorders. His work often requires consideration of complex medical, engineering, occupational hygiene, toxicological and epidemiological evidence and scientific literature.

Robert is adept at working as part of a team, including the large teams assembled to deal with group and multi-party litigation.

He has experience of dealing with disease cases at all levels, including in the Supreme Court. He regularly appears against leading counsel.

Robert acts in a large number of asbestos related matters each year for Claimants and Defendants, regularly dealing with high value living and fatal mesothelioma and lung cancer cases, as well as claims concerning asbestosis or pleural thickening. He has been instructed in numerous mesothelioma cases involving claims for immunotherapy treatment.

He is currently involved in hundreds of military claims of significant value for former military personnel who suffered NIHL and / or non-freezing cold injuries as a consequence of their service. In the first of the cohort of such cases to be tried, the Claimant, who suffered NIHL and tinnitus was awarded a total of £545,000 after an agreed liability apportionment of 80:20: Inglis v MOD [2019] EWHC 1153(QB).

He has also recently secured damages of £400,000 for a former soldier who suffered a non-freezing cold injury to his hands and feet as a result of exposure to extreme cold whilst on an exercise in Canada.

Robert was junior counsel for the claimants in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Textile Litigation (Parkes v Meridian [2007] B1 (QB), in the Court of Appeal (Baker v Quantum Clothing Group [2009] EWCA 499) and culminating in Baker v Quantum Clothing Group and others [2011] UKSC 17 in the Supreme Court (700+ claimants, 7 test cases, all involving NIHL).

He was instructed by the government in Jones and others v Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (The Phurnacite Workers Group Litigation) [2012] EWHC 2936 (QB), Swift J. (200+ claimants seeking damages for occupational cancer, COPD and asthma as a result of occupational exposures to dust and fumes).

Robert acted for the claimants in the Glamalco litigation (numerous former workers from an aluminium windows and doors factory suffering NIHL) and in the British Telecom “toneset” litigation (thousands of BT engineers who suffered NIHL as a consequence of using line testing equipment known as “tonesets”).

He acted in the generic case of Robert Gary Watkins v BT (2010) (Cardiff County Court, 8CF08717) in which admissions of breach of duty for green and unmodified yellow tonesets were secured, thereby paving the way for thousands of former installers, engineers and jointers to obtain compensation for noise induced hearing loss and tinnitus. He was also successful on behalf of a Claimant in what is thought to be the first case involving the moving of the 8kHz anchor point under the LCB Guidelines 2015 (Phillip Marchant v BT (2017) (Cardiff County Court, C91YJ273).

He acted in the South Wales Fire Fighter Deafness Litigation, and successfully represented three train drivers against Arriva Trains Wales in claims for upper limb disorders (Thomas and others v Arriva Trains Wales Ltd [2009] EW Misc 8 (EWCC), Lawtel AC0123076).

He advised extensively on the recoverability of fixed success fees, dealing with the collation and preparation of complex medical and scientific evidence, and liaising with costs counsel, in the case of Dalton v BT [2015] EWHC 616(QB).

Robert has a detailed knowledge of limitation in personal injuries actions having been involved in numerous limitation disputes at first instance and in the Court of Appeal (for example, Furniss v Firth Brown Tools [2008] EWCA Civ 182 – noise-induced hearing loss, in which Robert acted for the Claimant and which raised issues of limitation and the burden of proof – and Parsons and Warren v Perfectskill [2002] EWCA Civ 130 a claim in which he acted for the Defendants against a group of workers from a private mine who were claiming damages for industrial asthma).

He writes the chapter in Munkman on Employer’s Liability dealing with Occupational Cancer.

Selected Cases

  • KR v UCWNHS Trust – on going – defence of a living mesothelioma claim involving an Australian GP valued at over $Aus 4m.
  • Inglis v MOD [2019] EWHC 1153(QB) – NIHL and tinnitus caused by exposure to loud noise in the military. Damages of £545,000 awarded. This was Outstanding Case of the Year in the PI Awards, 2019.
  • S v MOD [2019] – NFCI caused by exposure to wet and cold conditions in the military. Settled for £400,000.
  • B v Royal Mail Group [2019] – what was thought to be a mesothelioma case, turned out not to be when the claimant died and an autopsy was carried out. He had in fact died of a stroke. Claim settled on the basis that but for the diagnosis of mesothelioma during his lifetime, the deceased’s warfarin would not have been stopped, and he would not have suffered a blood clot and subsequent stroke and died.
  • Dalton v BT [2015] EWHC 616 (QB) – Advised extensively on the recoverability of fixed success fees, dealing with the collation and preparation of complex medical and scientific evidence, liaising with costs counsel, Ben Williams QC.
  • Various Claimants v British Telecommunications PLC (Toneset Cases) (on-going) – Multi-party litigation involving thousands of telecommunications engineers suing for noise induced hearing loss caused by the use of amplifier / oscillator equipment at work.
  • Jones & Others v Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change (The Phurnacite Workers Group Litigation) [2012] EWHC 2936 (QB), Swift J. (main judgment); 2 Costs LR 230; [2012] EWHC 3647 (QB) Swift J (costs); [2013] 3 All ER 1014; [2013] EWHC 1023 (QB), Swift J (disbursement credit funding) (Affirmed C.A. [2014] 3 All ER 956) – Group litigation in which hundreds of former Phurnacite workers or their estates sued in respect of occupational cancers and respiratory diseases.
  • Baker v Quantum Clothing Group Ltd [2011] UKSC 17 – Employers not liable at common law or under the Factories Act 1961 for noise induced hearing loss sustained by employees before the coming into force of the Noise at Work Regulations 1989.
  • Thomas & Others v Arriva Trains Wales Ltd [2009] EW Misc 8 (EWCC); Lawtel AC0123076 – Claims for train drivers who suffered upper limb disorders as a consequence of the controls in the cabs.
  • Carter v Freeman Group PLC [2008] EWHC 1752 (QB) (Appeal); (2007) Lawtel AC0116614 (First Instance) – Inheritance of liabilities in asbestos litigation; procedure on appeals in summary judgment applications.
  • Furniss v Firth Brown Tools [2008] EWCA Civ 182, C.A. – Limitation of actions in NIHL cases.

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Qualifications


  • 1989-90: Inns of Court School of Law Bar Vocational Course (7/800)
  • 1986-89: University of Wales, College Cardiff: LLB (first class)
  • Sir Samuel Evans Scholar (1989)
  • Sweet & Maxwell Law Prize (1989)
  • Cardiff University Law School Prize (1989)

Memberships


  • PIBA

Rankings


  • Robert is recommended as a leader in his field.
  • Robert is one of only about 20 barristers nationally to be listed in the Chambers & Partners National Disease Spotlight Table.

Recommendations


“He’s very personable and likeable in court.” “Nobody knows more about military deafness cases than he does.” “He has huge experience of NIHL work and handles the big cases with ease.”

Chambers & Partners 2020

“He’s very quick with his responses and will fight his corner – he doesn’t drop a case he takes on.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2018

“He is brilliant on his feet and excellent with clients.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2017

“An employment liability expert, who has experience of complex matters of significant value. He has handled group action litigations, industrial disease claims and cases relating to stress. Strengths: ‘Very bright and very experienced as well.'”

Chambers & Partners 2016

“Undertakes the full spectrum of disease work, and is particularly noted for his encyclopaedic knowledge of the issues surrounding noise-induced hearing loss cases… He is very approachable and easy to work with.”

Chambers & Partners 2015

“Undertakes the full spectrum of disease work, and is particularly noted for his encyclopaedic knowledge of the issues surrounding noise-induced hearing loss cases… He is very approachable and easy to work with.”

Chambers & Partners 2015

“Experienced in group and multi-party litigation.”

Legal 500 2014

“Highlighted for his expertise of major disease cases. He also appeared in Baker v Quantum Clothing Group, illustrating that he is more than capable of taking on the best on a national stage.”

Chambers & Partners 2013

“Robert O’Leary has an impressive record in occupational illness and disease litigation.”

Legal 500 2013

He “has an excellent reputation for big ticket disease litigation.”

Chambers & Partners 2012

“Extremely efficient and always provides clear, pragmatic and detailed advice.”

Legal 500 2011


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