Australia: Entrepreneur or professional? Professional indemnity policies and what claims will trigger coverage

Last Updated: 14 June 2012
Article by Nicholas Lawrence and Paul Garnon

Kyriackou v ACE Insurance Limited [2012] VSC 214

Supreme Court of Victoria1

In Brief

  • Legal costs and fees incurred by an insured under a professional indemnity policy will only be recoverable where they relate to an insured "Claim".
  • If only injunctive or declaratory relief is sought, with no pecuniary relief, there will be no "civil compensation" or "civil damages" that might trigger cover under a policy.
  • Where the basis of a prosecution lies in the entrepreneurial aspect of a business, rather than in any professional capacity, professional indemnity policies will not respond.


This matter arises out of a policy of professional indemnity insurance (the Policy) issued by ACE Insurance Limited (ACE) to Mr Kyriackou and others (the Insured). During the period of insurance, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) commenced proceedings against the Insured.

In the proceedings, ASIC alleged that the Insured were involved in an unregistered managed investment scheme and sought interlocutory and final relief, including injunctions and declarations. ASIC later discontinued these proceedings.

The Insured claimed against ACE for their legal costs incurred during the proceedings. ACE denied indemnity on the basis that the claim fell outside of the insuring clause and, in the alternative, the claim was the subject of various exclusions.

The Policy

Under clause 1.1 of the Policy, ACE would indemnify the Insured:

"[A]gainst Loss arising and Claim in respect of civil liability for breach of a duty owed in a professional capacity first made against an Insured during the Period of Insurance."

"Loss" was further defined at clause 5.13 as:

"Loss means the aggregate of all amounts payable by the Insured or ACE as civil compensation or civil damages in respect of a Claim, including judgements [sic], settlements, legal costs and expenses awarded against an Insured and payments for Defence Costs."

"Claim" was defined at clause 5.4 as:

"Claim is a written demand for, or an assertion of rights to, civil compensation or civil damages arising out of the Firm's Business or a written intimation of an intention to seek such compensation or damages."

"Defence Costs" were defined at clause 5.5 as:

"Defence Costs are legal costs and disbursements and related expenses reasonably incurred in:

  1. defending any proceedings;
  2. conducting any proceedings for contribution or recovery; or
  3. investigating, avoiding, reducing or settling any Claim:

incurred by –

  1. Insured with the written consent of ACE after reporting the Claim to Ace; or
  2. ACE after it has assumed conduct of any such proceedings."

The key exclusion clause was at 3.17, which, read together with the lead clause at 3.1, stated:

"ACE will not be liable under the Policy to make any payment for Loss directly or indirectly caused by, arising out of or in any way connected with ... any breach by an Insured of a duty owed in the capacity of a director, secretary of [sic] officer of a body corporate."

Insuring for a "Claim"

Vickery J found that it was only if the proceedings against the Insured were a "Claim" for the purposes of the policy that the defence costs incurred by the Insured would be payable. In this regard, the primary issue was whether or not the ASIC proceedings sought "civil compensation" or "civil damages".

Vickery J found that these phrases were intended to mean a claim for pecuniary redress for an actionable wrong. ASIC, however, had only sought non-pecuniary relief such as injunctions, winding up of various companies and associated orders for liquidators being appointed.

Vickery J also found that even though there were statutory grounds to allow a court to award damages when an injunction is awarded, this was not sufficient to characterise the ASIC proceedings as a "Claim" for the purposes of the Policy. The pleadings and affidavit evidence revealed that the only areas of the claim where ASIC could have sought damages would have fallen under the exclusion clause, as they arose solely out of Mr Kyriackou's role as a director or officer of various companies.

Professional capacity

Having found that the policy did not respond as there was no insured claim for damages, Vickery J was also of the opinion that the policy would not have responded as the ASIC proceedings did not relate to duties owed in a professional capacity.

Vickery J looked at what is considered the broad view of the term "professional" in professional indemnity insurance and noted that it has been held that "the term involved no more than advice and services of a skilled character according to an established discipline."

Vickery J found that, even on a broad interpretation of professional, the basis of the ASIC proceedings was in Mr Kyriackou's capacity as an entrepreneur in the management of various companies and schemes and not as a professional. As this was not to be characterised as a breach of duty owed in a professional capacity, the ASIC proceedings again fell outside of the scope of the Policy.


When an insured seeks to have their legal costs covered, it is important to consider the nature of the proceedings that they are defending and the scope of the policy.

Where there is no claim for damages, either explicitly or implicitly, there is neither "civil compensation" nor "civil damages" which would trigger cover under a professional indemnity policy. Such phrases require the seeking of pecuniary damages in an actionable wrong.

Furthermore, professional indemnity insurance is to be construed with the objects in mind of providing indemnity for professional activities. Even in circumstances where the business being run has a professional character, such as the brokers of financial products in this circumstance, the entrepreneurial aspects will not attract cover under a professional indemnity policy.


1 Vickery J

Ranked No 1 - Australia's fastest growing law firm' (Legal Partnership Survey, The Australian July 2010)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.