Philip Skelton QC


Telephone: +64 9 307 9966

Mobile: +64 27 567 9919

[email protected]

Post: PO Box 4314, Shortland Street, Auckland, New Zealand 1140.

Commercial Litigation and Employment Law Specialist

Philip Skelton QC is a barrister specialising in commercial litigation, employment law, shareholder disputes and public inquiries.

Philip is one of the leading class action lawyers in New Zealand.  His interest in group litigation began in 2001 while he was a partner at Russell McVeagh when he acted for a plaintiff group to successfully pursue claims against various global pharmaceutical companies involved in a multi-national vitamin price fixing cartel.

Currently Philip is acting as Senior Counsel in relation to the:

  • CBL Corporation Limited (Shareholder Class Action) — on instructions from Glaister Ennor, who act for a group of institutional and retail investors. The claim is funded by IMF Bentham.
  • Southern Response Opt Out Class Action — on instructions from Grant Cameron of GCA Lawyers, who are acting for Mr & Mrs Ross who represent a group of approximately 3000 policy holders who are pursuing claims against Southern Response in relation to alleged misleading and deceptive conduct. This litigation is fully funded by Claims Funding Australia.

Philip’s Inquiry experience includes:

  • counsel assisting Justice Toogood QC’s independent investigation into the death of a student in a hall of residence at the University of Canterbury;
  • senior counsel assisting the Government Inquiry into Auckland’s fuel disruption;
  • conducting an independent inquiry into the death of an air traffic controller on behalf of Airways Corporation; and
  • numerous employment related investigations whether on behalf of employers, employees or in the role of independent investigator.

Philip was admitted to the Bar in 1983 and commenced practice as a barrister sole in 2006 after 14 years as a Russell McVeagh partner.  He was made a QC in 2013.

Philip’s litigation experience includes frequent appearances in the Employment Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court.

Recent and Notable Cases

Class Actions (Representative Proceedings)

  • CBL Corporation Limited (funded investor class action proceedings) – acting as senior counsel for plaintiff group in an investor class action alleging failure to make proper disclosure, breaches of the Financial Market Conducts Act and misleading and deceptive conduct.
  • Ross v Southern Response Earthquake Services Limited [2019] NZCA 421, 16 September 2019; [2018] NZHC 3288 – opt out representative proceeding – alleging misleading and deceptive conduct, misrepresentations and breach of good faith obligations implied into insurance contracts.
  • Bannock v Monaco Management Limited [2016] NZHC 2842; [2017] NZHC 1575; [2018] NZCA 18 – acting as senior counsel for group of property investors on instructions from GCA Lawyers (Grant Cameron) alleging property transactions void due to breaches of various Securities Act obligations; application for relief orders under the Securities Act; exception to indefeasibility of land title; conflict of laws issues around extra-territorial effect of NZ securities law.
  • Sun v Peninsula Road Limited [2015] NZHC 126; [2016] NZCA 427; [2017] NZSC 150 – acting as senior counsel in the High Court on behalf of multiple overseas based plaintiffs on instructions from Anderson Creagh Lai in relation to the failed Kawarau Falls development, Queenstown – alleged wrongful repudiation by the developer of contractual obligations under sale and purchase agreement.
  • Bomac Laboratories Limited v F Hoffman-La Roche Limited (2002) 7 NZBLC 103, 678 (HC) – counsel for a plaintiff group comprising some of New Zealand’s largest businesses against various multi-national pharmaceutical companies who had allegedly engaged in unlawful trade practices, including a price fixing cartel in relation to the marketing of vitamins in New Zealand and overseas – extra-territorial effect of the Commerce Act 1986 – jurisdictional issues with respect to whether the New Zealand High Court was the appropriate forum.

Commercial Litigation

  • Redwood Group Limited v Queenstown Gateway (5M) Limited [2018] NZHC 3439 (20 December 2018) Van Bohemen J – acting as senior counsel for the defendants on instructions from Harmos Horton Lusk in relation to a joint venture shareholder dispute – resolving dispute at mediation following receipt of a favourable judgment from the High Court on various interlocutory applications.
  • Wendco (NZ) Limited v LJCTB Trustees Limited [2017] NZHC 2668 (31 October 2017), Hinton J – obtaining relief against forfeiture of a commercial lease on instructions from Thompson Blackie Biddles.
  • Oraka Technologies Limited v Geostel Vision Limited [2018] NZHC 769; [2016] NZCA 554; [2016] NZHC 2001; [2016] NZHC 1188 – intellectual property dispute – quantum hearing in relation to breach of copyright in respect of an asparagus grading machine – whether loss should be calculated as a reasonable fee for the use of the copyright or as a loss of profit claim- whether plaintiff could claim for a related company’s loss. Briefed by HudsonGavinMartin.
  • Greymouth Holdings Ltd v Jet Trustees Ltd [2015] NZHC 1773; [2015] NZCA 265; [2014] NZHC 2844; [2014] NZHC 2679; [2014] NZSC 140; [2014] NZHC 2283; [2014] NZHC 1418; [2014] NZCA 266; [2013] NZHC 2497; [2013] NZHC 1013 – acting as senior counsel for minority shareholders in relation to a complex shareholder dispute involving claims and cross-claims of shareholder oppression, allegations of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty and an application to wind up the joint venture company on just and equitable grounds. Briefed by AndersonCreaghLai.
  • LSG Sky Chefs NZ Limited v Pacific Flight Catering Limited [2012] NZHC 2810, Woolford J; [2013] NZCA 386; High Court Auckland; [2013] NZCA 561; [2013] NZSC 141  – restitutionary claim to recover monies paid under compulsion of law – test case on the interpretation and operation of Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act 2000: Commentary in Brookers Employment Law, para ER 69J.02.
  • LSG Sky Chefs NZ Limited v Pacific Flight Catering Limited [2012] NZHC 1996, Toogood J – High Court determination that defence of “passing on” not arguable under New Zealand law. Noted: [2012] ECB 100.
  • Melview Viaduct Harbour Limited (in Rec) v Body Corporate 384911 [2012] 1 NZLR 84 – successful defence of receivers’ application to appoint an Administrator to the Westin Hotel Body Corporate.
  • Low v Body Corporate 384911 [2011] 2 NZLR 263 – successful application on behalf of Westin Hotel room owners to have various rules of the Body Corporate declared ultra vires.
  • New Zealand Steel Ltd v National Distribution Union & Ors (High Court, 11 May 2010, Potter J) – proceedings by NZ Steel for declarations that various provisions of their Collective Employment Agreement were void for breaching price fixing provisions in the Commerce Act 1986; considering boundary issues between Commerce Act and Employment Relations Act provisions: Noted (2010) 3 Global Competition Law Review.
  • Denarau Investments Limited v Ludlow (2008) 9 NZCPR 525 (CA) – unsuccessful Court of Appeal challenge to High Court determination that Denarau, by attempting to renegotiate sale and purchase agreements, had wrongfully repudiated those agreements.
  • Sky City Investments Christchurch Limited v Thomas (2004) 17 PRNZ 411 (HC) – acting for Sky City in shareholders’ dispute in relation to the Christchurch Casino.
  • Waihi Mines Limited v AUAG Resources Limited (1993) 13 PRNZ 372 (CA) – dispute between the joint venture owners of the Martha Hill Gold Mine at Waihi over pre-emptive rights provisions in their joint venture agreement – case went to Privy Council twice before final resolution.

Employment Litigation

  • Johnstone v Kinetic Employment Limited [2019] NZEmpC 91 – acting for Kinetic to successfully defend challenge by Ms Johnstone to the jurisdiction of the Employment Relations Authority to issue summonses to search and review documentation on ex-employee’s computer system.
  • Johnston v Fletcher Construction Limited [2018] NZEmpC 40 (Smith J) – acting for Fletcher Construction in a three week trial to defend Mr Johnston’s personal grievance and alleged breach of contract claims. (Judgment reserved).
  • Yu v Zespri International Limited [2017] NZEmpC 146 acting for Mr Yu on complex proceedings against Zespri International Limited in relation to the termination of Mr Yu’s employment – complex disclosure issues – conflict of law issues.
  • Hynds Pipe Systems Limited v Forsyth [2017] NZempC 89 – acting for Hynds on instructions from Simpson Grierson to obtain search order to search Mr Forsyth’s home – application for contempt of Court orders against Mr Forsyth – whether Employment Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine contempt of Court application – judgment of the Full Court on powers of the Employment Court.
  • Ovation New Zealand Limited v New Zealand Meat Workers and Related Trade Union [2018] NZEmpC 151; [2018] NZEmpC 101 – appearing as counsel for intervenor (New Zealand Meat Industry Association) on instructions from Chapman Tripp in test case on the proper interpretation of s69ZD of the Employment Relations Act.
  • Brown and Sycamore v New Zealand Basing Limited [2017] NZSC 139 acting for Messrs Brown and Sycamore in the Supreme Court in relation to their successful appeal against the Court of Appeal’s determination that New Zealand’s discrimination law had no application as a result of a choice of law clause in their employment agreement– extra-territorial effect of New Zealand’s employment law legislation – conflict of law issues – discrimination law.
  • Howell v Zeetags [2014] NZEmpC 68 – whether holiday pay was owing to Mr Howell on a substantial incentive based payment received by him after date of termination of his employment.
  • QBE Insurance (International Limited) v Anderson [2013] NZEmpC 19 – acting for QBE Insurance (International) Limited to obtain a non-party discovery order against the Serious Fraud Office in relation to their investigation into the conduct of Mr Anderson (an ex-QBE employee).
  • Hutton v Provenco Cadmus Limited (In Receivership) [2012] NZEmpC 207 – Employment Court proceedings seeking to recover holiday pay and redundancy compensation on behalf of a group of employees following the receivership of Provenco Cadmus Group of Companies. Judgment on jurisdictional issues reported [2010] ERNZ 213.
  • New Zealand Airline Pilots Association Inc v Jet Connect Limited [2009] 6 NZELR 632 – Employment Court, Chief Judge Colgan – successful defence on behalf of Qantas Airlines Limited to application by Union for an injunction to restrain Jetstar Airways Limited from launching its New Zealand business.
  • Transnet NZ Limited v Dulhunty Power NZ Limited [2007] ERNZ 379 – High Court interim injunction application, including application for a springboard injunction, to prevent ex-employees from working for competitor and using confidential information.
  • Bradford Trust Limited v Roebeck [2006] ERNZ 976 (HC) – springboard injunction granted against ex-employees who set up a competing business and diverted to their own use valuable business opportunities. Employment Relation Authority subsequently awarded damages against former employees in excess of $220,000.
  • Man O’War Farm Limited v Bree [2003] 1 ERNZ 83 – successful appeal to Court of Appeal on behalf of Man O’War Farm Limited against Employment Court determination that Mr Bree had been unjustifiably dismissed.
  • BHP New Zealand Steel Limited v O’Dea [1997] ERNZ 667 (HC) – leading High Court judgment on the interpretation of “political opinion” discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993.
  • Brighouse Limited v Bilderbeck [1995] NZLR 158 (CA) – at the time this was the leading Court of Appeal decision on redundancy law in what was a controversial 3/2 split decision.


  • Independent Inquiry into the death of a University of Canterbury student (2019) – acting as counsel assisting Justice Kit Toogood QC.
  • Government Inquiry into the Auckland fuels disruption (2019) – senior counsel assisting the Inquiry – report delivered to the Minister on time and under budget.
  • Airways Corporation Limited Inquiry – conducting Inquiry on behalf of Airways Corporation Limited into the death by suicide of an employee air traffic controller.
  • Employment related Inquiries – acting as counsel advising on or undertaking numerous employment related Inquiries into conduct and performance matters.
  • New Zealand Law Society National Standards Committee – from 2010 until September 2019 being a member and latterly convenor of the New Zealand Law Society’s National Standards Committee (the first instant body that hears and determines lawyers’ professional conduct complaints).

Qualifications and Career


  • BCom / LLB.
  • BCL (Oxon).

Academic Awards

  • Senior Prize in Law and Accounting
  • Chapman Tripp Scholar
  • Spencer Mason Scholarship
  • Worchester College Scholarship
  • Stout Shield finalist


  • Barrister sole at Bankside Chambers  since 2006
  • Partner , Russell McVeagh 1991-2006
  • Solicitor, Berwin Leighton, London,  1989-1990
  • Solicitor Russell McVeagh 1983-1987
  • Admitted as a Barrister & Solicitor 1983