Francesca O’Neill

Call: 2012
Junior (0-10 yrs call)

"A very impressive and commercially minded junior, excellent on her feet, and able to deal with complex jurisdictional issues."
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Expertise
Francesca is recognised as a highly effective and experienced advocate, with particular expertise in trial and at contested hearings. Francesca’s practice is chiefly focused on Professional Negligence (including Clinical Negligence), Local Authority Liability (including historic sexual abuse), and Personal Injury (particularly Highways, EL/PL, and cross-border claims).

In addition, Francesca is frequently instructed to represent families and NHS Trusts at Inquests, particularly those concerning mental health and self-inflicted harm. Recently, she represented a mental health specialist NHS Trust at a 5 day Article 2 jury Inquest. The Trust was not criticised.

Professional Negligence and Clinical Negligence

Francesca has particular interest and experience in professional indemnity work and has advised and acted for both claimants and defendants in professional liability actions involving solicitors, barristers, accountants, surveyors, insurance brokers, and construction professionals. She appears in the County Court and the High Court on a weekly basis.

She has developed a particular expertise in solicitors’ negligence and is regularly instructed by a large, national firm to give substantive advice on claims intimated against them, as well as being particularly favoured by the in-house legal team at an international insurance company. She successfully struck out a solicitor’s negligence claim (pleaded at in excess of £150,000) and obtained a wasted costs order for her insurer client.

“Francesca obtains excellent results against more experienced opponents. We use her regularly as she has a very personable manner but is fast, decisive and insightful” - Karen Causier, Senior Associate Solicitor and Professional Indemnity Manager, Irwin Mitchell

“One of the reasons I have instructed Francesca over other Counsel is because of her commercial acumen” Joseph Arazi, Head of Legal at Travelers Legal

Francesca also has a strong background in clinical negligence claims and has been instructed by both Claimants and the NHSR to appear at contested hearings in cases worth in excess of £1 million. She has particular interest and experience in cases involving hospital-acquired and delayed diagnosis of bacterial infection. Throughout 2019, Francesca was retained by NHSR defending a claim concerned with the late diagnosis of an infection which resulted in the partial loss of an 18-month old boy’s arm, where the claim is listed for a 5 day trial later in 2020 and the Claimant was represented by a QC.

Local Authority Liability and Personal Injury

Francesca’s background in commercial disputes ensures that Francesca is able to advise on complex claims that involve multiple areas of law: from personal injury to insurance fraud. In 2019, Francesca struck out a £5.5 million claim as a collateral attack on a decision of the family courts in the High Court before Mr Justice Knowles.

Francesca has represented Local Authorities across the UK in defending claims related to accidents and especially where the question of tortious liability is legally complex. She frequently advises on social services and police claims (many of which include claims brought under the Human Rights Act), and is sensitive and proficient in dealing with Litigants-in-Person.

Francesca is an elected two-term member of the Bar Council and was appointed to the Reform Working Group and to the Retention Committee. She is also a Governor at her local primary school.
Education

  • MA (History) University of Cambridge (Senior Exhibitioner)

  • MSc (International Relations and Political Theory)  London School of Economics

  • Dip.Law (GDL) City University

  • Bar Professional Training Course, City University

Recent cases

  • Brooks v London Borough of Waltham Forest: Francesca successfully struck out a £5.5 million appeal in front of Mr Justice Knowles arising from a collateral attack on a decision of the Family Court.

  • X v DCHS (NHS Litigation Authority): Representing the NHSLA at a two-week jury Inquest mandated by the HSE following the accidental death of a resident in her wheelchair at a care home. Successfully advised and represented the NHSLA, who came away from the inquest without criticism.

  • Re Harry Whiteman: Francesca represented the family of Mr Whiteman at the Inquest into his untimely death. She successfully persuaded the Coroner to refer the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions following irregularities in the expert evidence provided by the Mental Health trust.

  • J v QDOS: representing the Defendant in a complex solicitor's negligence case with a value of over £100,000, involving litigants in person, the Financial Ombudsman Service, defective pleadings and multiple summary applications.

  • AIS (Marine) 2 v SQN Holdings: successfully opposed winding up petition in this complex commercial dispute involving penalty clauses and unjust enrichment.

  • Rosser v Devon County Council: a successful appeal in this Highways Act case, involving interpretation of nonfeasance as opposed to misfeasance.
    Blacklisting litigation: instructed as junior Counsel on behalf of the Claimants in this long-running claim for historic blacklisting of construction workers.

Awards

  • 2017: Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law” Award for outstanding contribution in the personal injury field.

  • 2012 Inner Temple Major Scholarship (BPTC)

  • 2011 Inner Temple Major Scholarship (GDL)

  • 2011 The Times Ashley Jackson Law Prize

  • 2008 Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge: Senior Exhibition

  • 2007 Royal Commonwealth Society Scholarship
    2007 Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge: Exhibition

  • 2005 Rothberg Scholarship for Academic Excellence

Memberships

  • Personal Injuries Bar Association

  • London Common Law & Commercial Bar Association

  • Professional Negligence Bar Association

  • British Insurance Law Association

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