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Robert O’Leary

Call 1990

“He is one of the most technically able barristers when it comes to medical and scientific issues.”
(Chambers & Partners, 2021)

Personal Injury

Robert is recognised as a leading practitioner in personal injury litigation. He has extensive experience in multi-track employers’ liability, construction site, Animals Act, housing disrepair, assault, abuse / neglect, road traffic, 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.

In addition to dealing with large numbers of cases involving occupational diseases which have arisen as a consequence of work on building sites, Robert regularly deals with claims for both physical and psychiatric injury arising from accidents involving construction workers, including sometimes complex questions of responsibility where several employers work on the same site, consideration of contractual and regulatory issues, and the bringing and defending of Part 20 claims.

Robert has extensive experience of claims for personal injury arising from housing disrepair.

He writes the chapter in Munkman on Employer’s Liability dealing with Third Party Violence at Work and has represented medical practitioners and teachers who have been assaulted by third parties at work as well as defending such cases on behalf of the relevant employers. He has also acted in numerous cases involving abuse and neglect in care homes.

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).

Selected Cases

Robert has dealt with a wide range of cases including:

  • Defence of a claim brought by a female HGV driver who suffered a shoulder injury and complex pain syndrome as a result of a defect in a trailer curtain. The claim was pleaded at in excess of £2m but was settled at a JSM for £600,000.
  • Claim for a construction worker in his late 50s who was run over on site and suffered a below-knee amputation as a result – settled for £850,000 after a deduction for contributory negligence.
  • 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 claim valued at £2m for fourth party electrical contractor against an electrician injured on a building site when a stack of plaster boards fell on him causing him serious physical and psychiatric injuries.
  • Claim for the family of a lady in her 90s who was fatally injured due to the neglect of staff at the care home where she lived.
  • Defence of a claim brought by a teaching assistant injured at school by an autistic pupil.
  • 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.
  • A claim 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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)


  • PIBA


  • 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.


“He has a good eye for detail and is able to make strong judgements on complicated issues.”

Chambers & Partners, 2022

“Robert has one of the best technical abilities in terms of complex industrial diseases; he can handle the most complex medical causation arguments with ease.”

Legal 500, 2022

“His knowledge of noise-induced hearing loss is encyclopedic.”; “He is very impressive and has a wealth of experience in deafness work.”; “A very industrious and knowledgeable junior that clients really do warm to.”; “He is one of the most technically able barristers when it comes to medical and scientific issues.”

Chambers & Partners, 2021

“Has extensive experience and is frequently almost as knowledgeable on the medical aspects of this as the medical experts instructed.”

Legal 500, 2021

“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, 2018

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

Chambers & Partners, 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

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