Justin McDonnell

Justin McDonnell

Justin McDonnell is a Partner in the Brisbane office of King & Wood Mallesons where he concentrates on resolving commercial disputes. He has extensive experience in matters involving issues such as resource disputes, trade practices, telecommunications, insurance, mergers and acquisitions, insolvency and banking. Justin has particular expertise in dealing with large pieces of litigation involving numerous documents and witnesses that have significant commercial and strategic importance to clients. Most of these cases have been successfully resolved through Justin's use of mediation and other dispute resolution procedures.

He is the immediate past Chairman of the Queensland Law Society Litigation Rules Committee and is regularly involved in discussions with Federal and Supreme Courts on improvements in litigation practice in the Courts. Justin is co-chair of the Firm's Bribery and Anti Corruption Group and is chair of the India Business Interest Group.

Justin has been nominated as a leading lawyer in a number of surveys. Most recently:

  • since 2010 he has been listed by The Australian Financial Review newspaper as one the leading lawyers in Australia. In 2016 he was listed in Best Lawyers in 10 categories including bet-the-company, litigation, alternative dispute resolution, insurance, government, class action, product liability and international arbitration as nominated by peers in Best Lawyers. In 2015, Justin was listed as the Queensland Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyer of the year. In 2016 he was listed as Queensland International Arbitration Lawyer of the year;
  • as the leading Queensland litigator in Dispute Resolution Asia Pacific in Chambers Global for the last 5 years;
  • in 2010 by The Australian newspaper as one of the leading 100 lawyers in Australia as nominated by 160 general counsel in the Legal Benchmarking Report;
  • in 2013, the UK Lawyers Monthly awarded Justin the 2013 Australian Insurance Lawyer of the Year award; and
  • in 2015 by Doyle's Guide as a preeminent commercial litigator in Queensland.

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Representative Matters

  • Acting for Seqwater in the Class Action concerning the 2011 Queensland Floods in the largest class action in Australian legal history with an estimated $2 billion claim;
  • Acting for the Royal Commission in the Home Insulation Program;
  • Acting for Tatts Group Ltd in litigation in the Queensland Supreme Court involving about $250m concerning a Product Agreement with Queensland Racing after acting for Tatts Group Ltd in the Queensland Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry;
  • Acting for Gladstone Ports Corporation in successfully striking out two class actions concerning dredging at the port;
  • Acting for clients in the 2001 Floods; Health Payroll and Racing Commissions of Inquiry in Queensland;
  • Acting for BHP in judicial review challenges in the Queensland Supreme Court on coal royalties totalling over $380m;
  • Acting for a number of foreign currency loan cases for Westpac and AGC;
  • Acting for Westpac in settling litigation arising out of the demise of Southern Cross Airlines in a $50 million claim;
  • Acting for Telstra in telecommunications litigation, including settling the $100 million Pacific Star and $560 million All Services litigation;
  • Acting for ANI in settling litigation with claims up to $150 million arising out of its takeover of Palmer Tube Mills;
  • Acting for PricewaterhouseCoopers in successfully defending litigation in the Queensland Supreme Court, arising out of the collapse of the Emanuel Group with claims over $500 million; obtaining an indemnity costs order after a 9 month trial;
  • Acting for Brisbane Airport Corporation in successfully defending claims in the Federal Court that a proposed large scale retail development at the airport contravened the Airports Act. This was a precedent decision on the commercialisation of airports;
  • Acting for large resource companies in gas supply agreement price arbitrations;
  • Acting for Japanese insurers in a large insurance dispute in the Federal Court for over $600 million from the flooding of Ensham Coal Mine in January 2008;
  • Acting for BG in the 400 George Street litigation successfully in every hearing to the High Court, dealing with important issues on the legal effect of deeds;
  • Successfully acting for Woolworths in a number of planning appeals concerning competitor operations in Queensland.
  • Acting for solicitors, accountants and insurers in professional negligence claims;
  • Advising corporate clients on directors & officers liability insurance, including comparisons of varying policies and drafting indemnities for directors;
  • Advising resource clients on issues concerning force majeure, drafting indemnities and disputes involving commodity sales and joint ventures;
  • Acting for corporate and banking clients in ATO, ACC and ACCC investigations, including dealing with allegations of insider dealing, misleading conduct, third line forcing and price fixing;
  • Advising clients on the possible access to the United Nations Compensation Commission for reimbursement of losses sustained during the First Gulf War as well as acting for a number of American and Japanese banks in London in dealing with Gulf War sanctions; and
  • Acting for the successful applicant in Bell v. ASC regarding the presence of legal advisers at an ASIC investigation examination and also in claims against the ASIC regarding the right to access documents.


  • Joint author: the chapter on Insurance Intermediaries and Clients in the text "Law of Commercial and Professional Relationships" and the chapter on Australia in the Global Legal Insight text of "Bribery and Corruption"
  • 1981: Bachelor of Commerce degree, University of Queensland
  • 1983: Bachelor of Laws (Hons) degree, University of Queensland
  • 1987: Master of Laws (Hons), Cambridge University
  • 1987 - 1990: Linklaters & Paines, London
  • 1991 - 1996: Feez Ruthning (now Allens Arthur Robinson), Brisbane
  • 1996 - 1997: Senior Associate, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Brisbane
  • 1998 - to date: Partner, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Brisbane.

Professional memberships

  • Senior Counsellor for the Queensland Law Society
  • Senior Solicitor on Lexon Insurance panel for the Queensland Law Society to deal with Insurer/Insured disputes
  • Member of Australian Insurance Law Association
  • Member, Queensland Supreme Court Judge's Rules Committee (Costs Sub-Committee)
  • Immediate past Chairman of the Queensland Law Society Litigation Rules Committee
  • Member of the Queensland Supreme Court Better Resolution Group
  • Queensland Law Society representative on the University of Queensland Student Union Election Tribunal.


Legal insights

The Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia recently considered the relationship between the Advancement of Defence Costs extension and the available remedies for insurers arising out of non...

15 August 2018

Australian Treasury has eeleased a proposal paper outlining the planned extension of the unfair contract terms laws to standard form insurance contracts.

06 July 2018

The Supreme Court of WA provided guidance on the admissibility of hindsight evidence and determined that the position differed between individual and corporate plaintiffs.

07 June 2018

The Federal Court of Australia ordered that two of the three class actions which had been filed against GetSwift Ltd be permanently stayed, with only one to proceed.

24 May 2018