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Catherine McAdam

Partner

Sydney

+61 2 9234 4563

Catherine leads our Sydney life insurance team.

Her expertise extends to all aspects of life insurance, including conducting litigation, advising regarding remedies available under relevant legislation and life insurance advisory work.

A testament to Catherine’s expertise is the longevity of her life insurer clients who seek her commercial and pragmatic advice in this often-sensitive area.

She is highly aware that the financial services industry faces increasing regulation and scrutiny, and that litigation has potential reputational and financial costs to insurers. Catherine conducts disputes with an eye to achieving the best possible outcome while enhancing the reputation of her clients.

Beyond New South Wales, Catherine has defended claims in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT, and is well versed in the unique procedural requirements of each jurisdiction. She conducts litigation with an aim to achieving the best possible outcome while enhancing the reputation of her clients.

EXPERIENCE & EXPERTISE

Catherine’s deep knowledge of life insurance means she is well placed to advise clients regarding wide ranging issues.

Matters in which Catherine has acted include:

  • Acting on behalf of the trustee in the 2011 NSW Court of Appeal decision in Manglicmot v Commonwealth Bank Officers Superannuation Corporation Pty Ltd [2011] NSWCA 204. This leading case importantly determined that a person who can only work part time is not TPD. The case also provided clarity regarding the duties imposed upon trustees by s52 Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (Cth).
  • Catherine acted for Westpac Life Insurance Services Limited in its successful defence of the plaintiff’s claim in the NSW District Court and Court of Appeal in Davis v Westpac Life Insurance Services Limited [2007] NSWCA 175. Westpac had avoided the plaintiff’s cover under s29(3) of the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (Cth) (ICA). The case establishes that the relevant time to test s29(3) is up to three years after the risk commencement date. In making that finding, the courts rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the time to test s29(3) is at policy inception. The implication is that insurers can take up to three years to investigate non-disclosure before avoiding cover.
  • Acted for Challenger Life in its successful application to the Federal Court under s215 of the Life Insurance Act 1995 (Cth) to pay monies into court, so as to obtain a good discharge for the policy monies
  • Hayne RC. Advising an insurer on responding to notices. The responses contributed to the ultimate determination of the scope of the inquiry.
  • Advise brokers where certain life insurance policies are appropriate for particular cohorts, such as occupational groups
  • Remediation. Catherine advised an insurer regarding a remediation scheme arising from failure to properly inform insureds that a policy contained a pre-existing condition clause, when the policy was sold
  • Notifiable breach. Catherine advised an insurer regarding whether representations made to claimants by the insurer’s agent gave rise to the need to make a significant breach report.

Catherine’s life insurance clients particularly value her advice due to her commerciality, responsiveness, quick turnarounds, and the thoroughness of her advice.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

In 2019, Catherine assisted a life insurer secure a significant win at Australian Financial Complaints Authority (‘AFCA’) in a matter worth nearly $5 million. At issue was the insurer’s right to avoid the covers under section 29(2) of the ICA for fraudulent breach of the duty of disclosure.

Catherine prepared statements from the insurer’s personnel, which AFCA found persuasive and preferred to the claimant’s evidence. We also prepared submissions to AFCA, highlighting inconsistencies in the claimant’s account, which contributed to this excellent outcome.

RECOGNITION

Publication and Papers

Catherine provides updates to her life insurance clients when cases and regulatory developments occur which will impact their businesses. Catherine has authored a leading paper on the important area of income protection claims. This paper is a critical tool to guide claims handlers in assessing IP claims, as it gathers together all the case law on this topic. Catherine has delivered two seminars to AMP Life on this paper to assist AMP claims staff make robust decisions.

Catherine contributed to the Chambers & Partners ‘Insurance and Reinsurance 2021’ Global Practice Guide

Expertise

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Commerce, 1992, UNSW
  • Bachelor of Laws, 1992, UNSW

Memberships

  • Australasian Life Underwriting and Claims Association
  • Australasian Life Underwriting and Claims Association (ALUCA) (NSW) Committee 2019 and 2020 – responsible for liaison with other ALUCA Committees