Nathan Hepple

Co-founder, Director & Chair of Board

T: +61 (0) 2 9376 1188
F: +61 (0) 2 9376 1111
M: 0413 318 184
nathan.hepple@hbalegal.com

Nathan co-founded HBA Legal because he wanted to “find a way to give clients a better law firm experience”. He was driven to challenge the traditional law firm model and instead bring clients fast, efficient, and commercially savvy legal solutions.  Since HBA’s inception, Nathan and business partner Brett Ablong have gone on to create the HBA Group (HBA Legal, Paratus and Pillion): three allied businesses that together power new solutions and exceptional outcomes for clients.

Experience

Nathan began his career on the east coast of Australia in 1998, moving west to Perth in 2004 working with Sparke Helmore, Minter Ellison and then DibbsBarker. Nathan made partner at 31 and today operates out of HBA’s Sydney office.

Areas of expertise

Taking into account his experience as a paralegal and then lawyer, Nathan has worked exclusively in insurance litigation for over 20 years. Nathan is widely recognised as a public liability expert and is one of just a handful of lawyers in Australia who has come to be widely known as an expert in Commonwealth workers’ compensation law.

Nathan’s experience lies in litigation, where he represents major insurers, self-insureds and large Australian companies with significant deductibles. He’s widely experienced across retail, logistics, hotels, mining and banking.  Today, Nathan is also a valued business partner to various stakeholders placing risk into the Lloyd’s market in London and their underwriters. His focus on design of models for managing risk, to avoid litigation, is highly valued by his clients.

Why clients like him

Nathan is approachable and authentic, with creative problem solving skills that deliver the best outcome in the most efficient way. He thinks outside of the box and is not constrained by doing things a certain way “because that’s how they’ve always been done.”  Nathan will structure HBA’s services, fees, and anything in between to suit each client.

Significant wins

Nathan’s track record extends to thousands of slip and fall matters.   Among Australian self-insured companies he is considered one of the best at defending claims made against them.  Here are a few prominent examples from recent years:

Woolworths Ltd v McQuillan [2017] NSWCA 202
This is seen as a breakthrough case on the question of the test for reasonable inspection.  During the appeal hearing, one of the Appeal Court Judges commented that it could not possibly be reasonable to expect staff to be walking around the floor with their necks bent like crane birds, given the other responsibilities they have as part of their job.

Although Woolworths was not successful at first instance before Maiden DCJ, we held the line on our strategy that the system to be assessed ought not be required to be a system of perfection – it ought to be a reasonable inspection. Our work with the witnesses was crucial to ensure a clear and calm testimony was delivered and our strategy to agree quantum prior to the original hearing meant that both Courts were simply required to deal with the question of liability.  Ultimately, this worked in Woolworths’ favour.

Woolworths paid nothing to Mrs McQuillan and received an order for costs.

Iacopetta v Woolworths Ltd [2015] NSWCA 87
Mrs Iacopetta was a very optimistic plaintiff.  We recognised very early in the matter that liability was not a strong point and therefore we worked with Woolworths to develop a strategy whereby we would make an early offer of compromise to provide costs protection.  The offer of compromise was made eight months prior to trial and ultimately, we beat that offer by some margin.

This left the plaintiff in quite a predicament because our costs for running the matter for seven months were recoverable on an indemnity basis out of her award of approximately $80,000.

Mrs Iacopetta appealed to the Court of Appeal and three Judges did not grant leave for her to proceed.  In the end, despite having an award of approximately $80,000, the plaintiff and her lawyers were left with nothing.

Vincent v Woolworths [2015] NSWSC 435
Mrs Vincent was a merchandiser, performing stock replenishment work at the Woolworths supermarket in Moruya.  While performing her work, she stepped backwards off a step ladder into the path of a trolley being pushed by a customer.

We successfully defended Woolworths in the NSW Supreme Court primarily on the basis that there was no breach of duty.  Woolworths had done everything it reasonably could have been expected to do in the circumstances to avoid any foreseeable risk of injury.

The matter was hard fought, with the plaintiff’s employer also involved and wanting payback of its workers’ compensation payments.  We were entirely successful.  Woolworths paid nothing and received an order for costs.

Andreou v Woolworths [2013] NSWDC 83
Ms Andreou was walking in a supermarket at the time of a freak storm.  Unfortunately, a significant stream of water started to pour through a hole in the roof.  Ms Andreou turned to walk away from the leak and fell, sustaining injury.

The matter was heard before Judge Levy in the District Court.  The plaintiff’s solicitors, aggressively, wanted hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Our strategy was to run the liability argument on the basis that breach would not be established, as it could not be reasonably foreseeable for Woolworths to anticipate the water pouring through the ceiling.

His Honour completely rejected the plaintiff’s case and held that there was nothing Woolworths could have reasonably done to prevent this incident and went so far as to say that the plaintiff did not establish that the water pouring through the roof could not be regarded as “not insignificant”.  His Honour said that this was an unfortunate accident and found in favour of Woolworths.

Woolworths paid nothing and received an order for costs.  An appeal was filed but later dropped.