Francesca O’Neill

Call: 2012
Junior (0-10 yrs call)

"She has excellent knowledge of the law and good commercial nous. An excellent advocate who produces clear, concise and persuasive documents and precise advice."
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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 focussed on Professional Negligence, Clinical Negligence, and Local Authority Liability (including historic sexual abuse, social services claims), and Personal Injury (particularly Inquest, EL/PL).

In 2020, Francesca was appointed to the Attorney-General’s C Panel of Counsel and is instructed by the Government in a range of cases – particularly those that involve vexatious litigants and that require civil restraint orders.

PROFESSIONAL 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 regularly appears in the High Court as sole Counsel and has acted for a range of insurers in the London market including Travelers, Hiscox, and LawSelect.

She has developed a particular expertise in solicitors’ negligence and is regularly instructed by the in-house team at Irwin Mitchell 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. Recent cases include:

  • Harry v Curtis Law LLP, in which Francesca successfully represented the Defendant firm at a 2 day trial examining the scope of the retainer of solicitors who undertake low-cost but high volume conveyancing work (see https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/conveyancer-on-fixed-fee-had-limited-duties-to-client-court-finds/5111935.article)

  • XY v LTG LLP, a case involving alleged negligent representation at a judicial review which concerned the activities of a security services informant;

  • H LLP v NAS LLP, in which a barrister’s advice as to the rescission of a commercial contract arising out of a £3.6mn property purchase was considered, and the duties of a stakeholder to pay out a deposit held as a stake was in question;

  • G v KJ LLP, a claim pleaded in excess of £1million arising from allegedly negligent advice arising from an employment dispute.


Francesca is ranked as a Leading Junior in Professional Negligence by the Legal 500:

2022: “Francesca provides clear and concise advice. She has great commercial awareness and understanding of clients' needs.”

2021: “She has excellent knowledge of the law and good commercial nous. An excellent advocate who produces clear, concise and persuasive documents and precise advice

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

CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE

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 £2 million. She has particular interest and experience in cases involving hospital-acquired and delayed diagnosis of bacterial infection. Recent cases include:

  • ML v PG & X Hospital, Francesca acted for the Claimant who had undergone negligent eye surgery while a clinical trial of new machinery was being undertaken, but she had not been told. There was no informed consent.

  • SC v AK, Instructed by the defendant surgeon accused of negligently operating on the knee of a footballer who was claiming in excess of £1mn in damages. The case raised questions of fundamental dishonesty.

  • JM v NT NHS Trust: Instructed by the executors of the deceased, who died after hospital admission and where there was an allegation of a failure to diagnose and treat an aorto-enteric fistula.

  • HL v HE NHS Trust: Instructed 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.


Francesca has appeared at Inquests on behalf of NHS Trusts and has expertise in mental health- related deaths. She is instructed by the Ministry of Justice in Article 2 Inquests and claims arising from prison deaths. She has a particular interest in women’s health related matters and is on the Centre for Women’s Justice Panel of Counsel.

She co-authored the Bar EDI Directory with colleagues from the Bar Council’s Bar Leadership Programme in 2021.

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. Recently, 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. She has a busy practice encompassing high value and complex brain and spine injury and occupational stress claims.

Francesca was an elected two-term member of the Bar Council and was appointed to the Reform Working Group and to the Women’s Retention Committee.  She now sits on the Inner Temple Bar Liaison Committee. She is a Governor at her local primary school.

Before coming to the Bar, Francesca read History at Cambridge University, where she was a Senior Exhibitioner. She obtained an MSc from the London School of Economics gaining a Distinction before studying the GDL/BPTC at City University. The Inner Temple awarded her consecutive Major Scholarships for both years of training and she received The Times Ashley Jackson Law Prize.
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.

Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 Rankings
Legal 500 2022

Professional Negligence - Leading Junior - ‘Francesca provides clear and concise advice. She has great commercial awareness and understanding of clients' needs.'

‘She has excellent knowledge of the law and good commercial nous. An excellent advocate who produces clear, concise and persuasive documents and precise advice.’

 

 
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

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

Rankings

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