Litigation and dispute resolution

Bell Gully has New Zealand’s leading litigation and dispute resolution practice. Our lawyers are leading advocates who have extensive courtroom experience and who provide strategic commercial advice.

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​We have New Zealand's leading litigation and dispute resolution practice. We won Benchmark Litigation's New Zealand Litigation Firm of the Year award in 2021 and 2020, and both Chambers Asia Pacific and The Legal 500 Asia Pacific rank us in the top tier, Band 1, for litigation.

We are known for the depth and breadth of our litigation practice, our strong advocacy skills, and our strategic commercial advice.

Our expertise

Our team has significant expertise and experience in dealing with complex and contentious disputes in a wide range of commercial and public fields, including:​

We have extensive experience acting in trials and on appeal at all levels of the New Zealand court system. We also regularly represent clients in arbitrations, mediations and other forms of dispute resolution.

In addition, our team also has substantial experience and expertise representing clients in regulatory investigations, proceedings and inquiries, including:

  • Commerce Commission
  • Financial Markets Authority
  • Serious Fraud Office
  • WorkSafe
  • Labour Inspectorate
  • Commissions of Inquiry

Independent recognition of our expertise​​​

The strength of our team is recognised by all of the leading legal directories:

  • Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific Awards 2021: New Zealand Litigation Firm of the Year
  • The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2021: Tier 1 (top tier) for Litigation
  • Chambers Asia Pacific 2021: Band 1 (top band) for Litigation

The litigation team also received awards for Impact Case of the Year at both the asialaw Awards 2020 and the Bench​mark Litigation Asia-Pacific Awards​ in both 2021 and 2020​.

The head of our litigation team, David Friar, was named New Zealand Litigation Lawyer of the Year at the Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific Awards 2020 and partner Sophie East was named runner up New Zealand Litigation Lawyer of the Year​ at the 2021 Awards. Jenny Stevens and Sophie East were also named in Benchmark Litigation's Top 100 Women in Litigation 2020 for the Asia-Pacific region. Our other litigation partners are also highly ranked across the recognised directories, including The Legal 500 Asia PacificChambers Asia PacificBest Lawyers and Doyles Guide.​

Recent editions of the Chambers Asia Pacific and The Legal 500 Asia Pacific directories report our clients as saying the following about our litigation team:​

  • “Bell Gully has one of the largest and most prominent commercial litigation teams in New Zealand."
  • “Their knowledge of the law is impeccable."
  • “The level of service is excellent and the team is prompt and clear in its advice."
  •  Bell Gully “'provides clear, concise advice and is always available to discuss matters.”
  • “This team's work is well thought through and presented clearly."
  • The team is “easy to deal with and provides both timely advice and good value for money."
    Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2018-2021 (Tier 1)
  • "The sort of firm you want to deal with for complicated or cutting-edge legal issues; they're our go-to for those."
  • “They are always exceptionally well prepared for litigation, a definite strength that I have seen pay dividends on numerous occasions.”
  • “They have won some very tough cases and won well.”
  • “I would not consider going elsewhere.”
  • Their “understanding of client needs is definitely first rate.”
  • “They're extremely knowledgeable and can provide advice in a timely fashion.”
  • “The firm can handle any matter at a high level of service.”
  • They are “exemplary in their deep understanding of our business and us as a client.”
    Chambers Asia Pacific 2018-2021 (Band 1)​​

Termination of $1.5 billion purchase
Acted for Asia Pacific Village Group in a High Court dispute over its successful termination of its NZ$1.5 billion acquisition of Metlifecare. This case was one of the first pieces of litigation in New Zealand resulting from COVID-19, and raised novel issues concerning material adverse change clauses. After resolving that litigation, we acted as scheme counsel for a new transaction under which our client took over Metlifecare at a reduced price of NZ$1.3 billion under a court-approved scheme of arrangement.​​

Novel climate change claims
Acted for Genesis Energy, defending novel claims concerning its alleged responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. We were successful in striking out most of the causes of action in the High Court, with the decision now being appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Double derivative claim against former directors
Acted in proceedings concerning the alleged misappropriation of company funds by a former director and trustee. We successfully defended an application to strike out our client's claim, with the High Court accepting for the first time that novel “multiple-derivative" claims can be brought in New Zealand.

Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act investigation
Acting for a leading New Zealand bank in a Commerce Commission investigation into information provided to customers that the Commission alleged breached the bank's obligations under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act 2003. This matter involved novel issues of statutory interpretation, and we successfully settled the investigation.

Representing defendants in securities class action
Acting for a group of defendants in a proposed securities class action in the High Court relating to the initial public offering of Intueri Education Group Limited. The representative plaintiffs allege that untrue statements were made in offer documents and that certain directors failed to comply with continuous disclosure obligations.

Fire at New Zealand International Conference Centre
We are acting for a client in relation to one of the most significant insurance events in recent years – the fire at the New Zealand International Conference Centre.

Test case on settlement agreements and good faith
Acted for Southern Response in a critical test case in the Court of Appeal as to whether an insured can overturn a full and final settlement agreement, as well as the extent to which insurers must act in good faith when handling claims. The case will have significant implications for thousands of settlement agreements entered into in relation to the Canterbury earthquakes.

Phitek – breach of warranty
Acted for the vendor shareholders of Phitek Systems Limited in High Court proceedings that Amphenol Phitek Limited (Amphenol NZ) brought against them for breach of warranty, misrepresentation, and false and misleading conduct under the Fair Trading Act 1986. This matter was successfully settled.

Responsible lending principles claim
Acted for a provider of short terms loans in an action brought by the Commerce Commission alleging that the provider breached responsible lending principles under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act. This proceeding was the Commission's first proceeding to enforce these principles and was closely watched in the industry as a test case for how the Commission will pursue and resolve claims under the new provisions of the Responsible Lending Code.

Air NZ – flight ban litigation
Acted for Air New Zealand in successfully defending a High Court injunction claim brought by a passenger who was banned from travelling with Air New Zealand for 12 months for abusing Air New Zealand ground staff.

Judicial review of Auckland Council's accommodation rate
Acted for a number of commercial accommodation providers in an application for judicial review in the High Court of a decision by Auckland Council to impose a targeted rate, specifically on accommodation providers, to fund 50% the Council's Tourism Promotion and Major Events budget.

Relativity mechanism litigation
Acting for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu on the obligations arising under the relativity mechanism provisions which are contained in their 1997 Deed of Settlement with the Crown.

Judicial review of Crown entities
Acting for Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities in judicial review proceedings following on from the Supreme Court's decision that the Crown owed fiduciary duties to original customary owners of land.

Holidays Act investigations and remediation
Advised employers in the public and private sector on Holidays Act compliance issues and Labour Inspectorate investigations, including identifying non-compliance, remediating employees, defending proceedings and Improvement Notices, and negotiating enforceable undertakings with the Labour Inspectorate.

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  • David Friar

    Partner Auckland
  • Rachael Brown

    Partner Wellington