Michael Cavanaugh

Senior Associate | BSc, LLB

Michael is an experienced lawyer in the area of professional liability and brings expertise in construction, commercial, competition and consumer law along with judicial review. He is a skilled advocate who thrives on understanding complicated problems and expressing their solutions simply and concisely.

Graduating from Victoria University with an LLB and a BSc majoring in Chemistry, Michael also studied abroad at Germany’s Bucerius Law School in Hamburg. His early career focussed on Intellectual Property before moving into Civil Litigation where he gained experience in the Supreme Court of New Zealand. Michael has gone on to advise and represent clients in the Australian Federal Court and the Supreme Courts of New South Wales, Canberra and Victoria. He joined McElroys in 2014 and is a member of the Legal Research Foundation and The Law and Economics Association of New Zealand.

When not at work Michael enjoys brewing his own beer and spending time with his young family. Having won national titles in waterpolo, he is also an accomplished and keen swimmer. Michael also volunteers his time to assist with moots at Law Schools and has both competed in and coached mooting teams to international accolades.

Principal areas of practice:

  • Professional Indemnity – engineers, architects, real estate agents, accountants, and lawyers.
  • Directors and Officers Liability.
  • General Liability – construction, product liability, negligence, intellectual property, and judicial review.
  • Statutory Liability – Commerce Commission and FMA investigations and prosecutions.
  • IT & Cyber Liability – intellectual property, breaches of confidence, negligence, and defamation.


  • Technical and concise analysis, with considered strategy.
  • Pragmatic and principled solutions.
  • Advocacy, including extensive mediation and courtroom experience.

Recent trial involvement / outcomes:

  • Commerce Commission v Lodge [2017] NZHC 1497 – High Court decision on arrangements or understanding under the Commerce Act and whether such arrangements or understandings fix or control the price of competitors’ services.
  • Marlborough District Council v Altimarloch Joint Ventures Ltd [2012] 2 NZLR 726 – Supreme Court authority on duties of care arising out of statutory powers, measure of loss and damage, and contribution between parties.
  • McNamara v Auckland City Council [2012] 3 NZLR 701 – Supreme Court decision on duties of care arising out of statutory powers.
  • Nathans Finance NZ Ltd (in rec) v AIG Insurance New Zealand Ltd [2014] NZHC 2997 – High Court decision on admissibility of expert evidence on the issue of director dishonesty.
  • McAlister v Lai [2018] NZCA 141 + McAlister v Lai [2017] NZHC 791– High Court decision on solicitor’s liability to persons other than their clients and subsequent appeal.
  • Linguis International Institute of Language and Culture Ltd v NZQA [2016] NZAR 730 – Judicial Review of NZQA report on private training establishment’s educational performance and capability.
  • International Academy of New Zealand v NZQA [2016] 640 – Judicial Review of NZQA report on private training establishment’s educational performance and capability.
  • Jardboranir HF t/a Iceland Drilling v Summit Hydraulic Solutions Ltd [2016] NZHC 490 – High Court decision on contractual limitation and exclusion clauses.
  • Successful defence of major New Zealand insurer from claims by company directors in relation to excluded cover.
  • Advising a major New Zealand insurer on Trans-Tasman claims and proceedings against directors and officers arising out that company’s collapse.
  • Successful defence of lawyers and real estate agents against claims and disciplinary complaints.
  • Acting for clients in Commerce Commission investigations and proceedings.
  • Acting for fuel suppliers in product liability, material damage and business interruption proceedings.
  • Acting for governmental agencies in judicial review proceedings.