BA, LLB (Hons), Associate
Sarah Ulmer
Sarah is part of our national Dispute Resolution Team, specialising in insurance law.  She advises insurers on a number of areas, including material damage, liability, and health and life claims, indemnity issues, and recovery actions.

Sarah has a particular focus on defending professional indemnity claims and disciplinary actions, including against real estate agents, brokers, solicitors, barristers, and building surveyors.  She is known for her ability to identify the real issues in dispute, and for her attention to detail without losing sight of the big picture.

Working regularly with quantity surveyors, builders, surveyors and engineers to provide evidence to support insurance claims, Sarah has significant experience with briefing expert witnesses for court hearings and mediations.

Sarah has appeared in the District Court, High Court and as junior counsel in the Supreme Court, and also has experience with alternative dispute resolution, including judicial settlement conferences and mediations.

In addition to insurance law, Sarah has a keen interest in legal and medico-legal ethics.

"Working as part of a great team and interacting with clients to provide practical legal advice that will achieve the best possible outcome."
Wynn Williams (Auckland)
Level 11, AIG Building,
41 Shortland Street,
Auckland 1010,
New Zealand.


Recent Projects

  • Defending brokers against allegations of negligence.
  • Defending real estate agents against claims and complaints, including allegations of misrepresentation, breach of duties, and issues with methamphetamine contamination of properties.
  • Resolving claims through long-tail mediations.
  • Advising clients about defective repairs to earthquake damaged properties.
  • Appearing as junior counsel in the High Court and Supreme Court on disputes relating to policy interpretation and quantum of settlement for earthquake related insurance claims.
  • Secondment to a major New Zealand domestic insurer to assist with the response to the Canterbury earthquakes (opinion work, strategy and claim settlement decisions).

Recent Articles


Reopening an insurance cash settlement agreement? Supreme Court says no!

In Prattley Enterprises Limited v Vero Insurance NZ Limited [2016] NZSC 158 the Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that a signed settlement agreement was binding on the parties, where the insured party asserts it was operating under a mistake over its entitlement under the policy. On appeal from the Court of Appeal, Prattley had (again) sought to set aside the settlement agreement it signed with its insurer Vero, on the basis that both it and Vero entered the settlement under a common mistake as to the correct measure of indemnity under the policy.

Keep reading...


Can a settlement agreement ever be set aside?

The UK Supreme Court has now clarified an uncertain area of law regarding deceit and misrepresentation in the context of settlement agreements, where fraud is suspected: Hayward v Zurich Insurance Company plc [2016] UKSC 48.

Keep reading...


Supreme Court finds no doctrine of merger in commercial property policy

The Supreme Court has now considered an insurer's liability for multiple events occurring in the same policy period, addressing policy interpretation, the doctrine of merger, and the indemnity principle: Ridgecrest NZ Limited v IAG New Zealand Limited [2014] NZSC 117, on appeal from the decision of the Court of Appeal in July 2013. Ridgecrest owned a commercial building in central Christchurch, which was insured with IAG under a State "Businesspack" policy. As a result of the Canterbury earthquake sequence, Ridgecrest lodged four claims for earthquake damage, following earthquakes on 4 September 2010, 26 December 2010, 22 February 2011 and 13 June 2011. Each of those "happenings" occurred in the same policy period, and each claim was accepted by IAG.

Keep reading...


Ridgecrest Appeal: Insurers' Liability for Multiple Events

The Court of Appeal has now addressed the interpretation of an insurance policy in response to multiple event claims, confirming that an insured is entitled to be indemnified for each loss resulting from insured events: Ridgecrest New Zealand Limited v IAG New Zealand [2013] NZCA 291, on appeal from Dobson J's decision in the High Court in November 2012.

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When is indemnity value payable?

An insurer's obligation to pay indemnity value does not depend on an insured's election after an insured loss, the High Court has recently and unsurprisingly confirmed.

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Earthquake-prone building policy not enforceable

Six days after the 4 September 2010 earthquake, the Christchurch City Council adopted its Earthquake-Prone, Dangerous and Insanitary Buildings Policy 2010 (the Policy). The High Court has recently found it is unenforceable in terms of the level of strengthening required for earthquake-prone buildings.

Keep reading...


Ridgecrest: Insurers' Liability for Multiple Earthquake Events

The High Court is currently operating a special 'earthquake list' to fast-track earthquake-related insurance disputes.  One of the first decisions from that list, Ridgecrest NZ Limited v IAG New Zealand Limited1, deals with the extent of an insurer's liability for a commercial building in central Christchurch that suffered damage from four earthquakes during the same period of insurance.  

Keep reading...


Drastic Change to the Leaky Building Landscape

In Spencer on Byron the Supreme Court held that local authorities owe a duty of care in their inspection role to all building owners. This is a huge development, as previously such a duty only recognised residential building owners.

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Special Earthquake List for Courts

At a seminar for lawyers on 5 September 2012, Justice Miller spoke about the use of the new 'Earthquake List' for earthquake-related claims filed with the High Court.

Keep reading...


A New Approach To Litigation Privilege?

If and when litigation privilege attaches to reports obtained by insurers is a hotly debated issue. The general principles can be easily stated and are well accepted: the document in question must have been prepared for the dominant purpose of providing advice in respect of reasonably anticipated litigation.

Keep reading...

Reported Decisions

  • Southern Response Earthquake Services Ltd v Avonside Holdings Ltd [2015] 18 ANZ Insurance Cases 62-079
  • Turvey Trustee Limited v Southern Response Earthquake Services Limited (2013) 17 ANZ Insurance Cases 61-965.
  • Avonside Holdings v Southern Response [2013] NZHC 1433
  • Reynolds v Peter (2010) 20 PRNZ 774


  • Young Insurance Professionals
  • New Zealand Insurance Law Association (NZILA)

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Wynn Williams Christchurch
Level 5, Wynn Williams House, 47 Hereford Street, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand.
PO Box 4341, DX WX11179, Christchurch 8140.
+64 3 379 7622
+64 3 379 2467
Wynn Williams Auckland
Level 11, AIG Building, 41 Shortland Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand.
PO Box 2401, Shortland Street, Auckland 1140.
+64 9 300 2600
+64 9 300 2609

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