James has 19 years of experience at the bar. Prior to that, he worked at Minter Ellison, mostly acting for professionals (primarily in the building industry, such as architects and engineers) who had been sued by plaintiffs alleging professional negligence.

He is a leading counsel in the field of professional negligence, particularly in relation to claims involving construction industry professionals. He was included in the 2021 Edition of Best Lawyers in Australia, for professional malpractice. He regularly acts as lead counsel or unled in claims involving large sums of money.

Some previous high-profile projects include acting for one of the architects involved in the design and construction of the Olympic Swimming Pool at Homebush, and the architect involved in additions to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

He is currently lead counsel for the structural engineer in the Opal Tower class action, and is acting for the engineering design joint venture in a $300 million claim relating to the North West Rail Project.

James also regularly acts in professional negligence cases involving other professionals, including, for example, accountants, financial advisers, insurance brokers, solicitors, managing agents and medical professionals. He acts in representative proceedings, and recently appeared for the dam operator in the representative proceedings arising out of the 2011 floods in south-east Queensland.

James practises extensively in the fields of building and construction, and insurance.

In building and construction matters, James has acted for builders, developers, owners (including many owners’ corporations in strata plan matters), architects (including landscape architects), engineers (including civil, structural, geotechnical, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, lift and fire safety), pre-purchase building inspectors, tunnelling designers and contractors, home owners warranty insurers, and waste services contractors. He has experience in claims concerning Aluminium Composite Cladding.

James also has significant experience in insurance, particularly professional indemnity insurance.  He appeared in a significant insurance case dealing with the concept of ‘recoupment’. James advises and appears for local and foreign insurers both as defence counsel as well as in relation to coverage issues.

James also has significant experience in general commercial law, and in common law cases involving property damage or pure economic loss, including fire cases.

He has acted for companies based overseas, including a Supreme Court case for a French manufacturer of artificial ligaments, and has appeared at coronial inquests.

James has argued, unled, six cases in the NSW Court of Appeal (Harrington Estates (NSW) Pty Ltd v Turner [2016] NSWCA 369; Hazard Systems Pty Ltd v Car-Tech Services Pty Ltd (in liq) [2013] NSWCA 314; Cardinal Project Services Pty Ltd v Hanove Pty Ltd [2011] NSWCA 39; Building Insurers Guarantee Corporation v The Owners – Strata Plan No 57504 [2010] NSWCA 23; Fallon Street Properties Pty Ltd v Steel & Stuff Pty Ltd [2006] NSWCA 296; Scott Carver Pty Ltd v SAS Trustee Corporation [2005] NSWCA 462), and one in the WA Court of Appeal (Middleton v Aon Risk Services Australia Ltd [2008] WASCA 239).

Other current cases include acting unled for:

(a) a design and construction contractor in a claim against a building contractor for about $15 million;

(b) an architect in a claim for about $35 million concerning waterproofing and ACPs;

(c) a façade contractor in a claim concerning ACPs;

(d) a mining company in relation to a royalty dispute where the amount claimed is about $30 million

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James Neal
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