Karen Thomas

Managing Partner

Karen's areas of legal practice are diverse. With 30 years of experience as a practising lawyer, Karen's expertise includes all types of difficult and complex commercial disputes in all Australian jurisdictions.

Highly regarded as a practical, resourceful and tenacious lawyer, Karen is adept at cutting through to the strategic issues that define difficult disputes. Her reputation for achieving exceptional results is built on keen legal and tactical judgment and her ability to manage the multidisciplinary team necessary to conduct complex and large scale litigation.

Clients have described Karen variously as an "accomplished" and "very efficient and talented litigator" distinguished by her "relentless pursuit of all avenues in support of her client's argument" and her "very strong attention to detail".

As well as conducting a successful legal practice, Karen is the managing partner of Fisher Jeffries and a key member of the firm’s management committee.

Major Assignments

  • Acting for a privately held group of companies in Federal Court proceedings brought by the FWO for the alleged sham contracting in the provision of personal care and domestic services under various government agency contracts
  • Successfully defending a Customs Act 1901 investigation brought by Australian Border Force with regard to the alleged importation of asbestos in cement fibre sheeting
  • Successfully defending an investigation by SafeWork SA into the manufacture of portable buildings allegedly including asbestos materials
  • Acting for a State Government principal for the design and construction of a major transport project relation to delay and defect claim disputes
  • Acting for a State Government principal in relation to various road projects
  • Acting for one of Australia's most successful manufacturers and distributors of air conditioning equipment in a variety of commercial disputes ranging from trade mark infringement to competitive product advertising
  • Acting for an international group of businesses encompassing mining, energy generation, metals and engineering in a dispute concerning the defective design and construction of part of their material handling and export facility
  • For 20 years, Karen acted for one of Australia’s largest vertically integrated manufacturing and distribution businesses, providing risk management advice as well as conducting a variety of business disputes arising from the diverse operations of this top 100 company.
  • Acting for a civil contractor in arbitration proceedings for its claims against its Government principal for $32 million for delay and disruption costs, which claims were settled favourably at mediation.
  • Acting for the design and construction contractor in an integrated waste water and desalination project in arbitration proceedings brought by its drilling subcontractor for delay costs.
  • Acting for the owner of a pipe-lay barge in a series of related third party and marine insurance disputes in respect of multi-million dollar claims arising from the damage to and detention of a barge in Batam, Indonesia
  • Acting for the owner of a pipe-laying barge in a series of related contractual, insurance and trade practices disputes for claims in excess of $47M, the subject of multiple Federal Court proceedings (including its Admiralty Jurisdiction), the High Court of Singapore and various domestic and international arbitrations in connection with the charter of the barge for an offshore gas project in Australia.
  • Acting for the London underwriter of the 2004 and 2005 PI Scheme for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in relation to a number of disputed claims in South Australia arising from the frauds of an insured’s employee.
  • Acting in a product liability and professional indemnity claim in relation to a crane which derailed in situ and led to a fatality.
  • Since February 2006, acting as the Manager of Magarey Farlam Lawyers by appointment under the Legal Practitioners Act 1981 (SA) in the management and winding up of the client affairs of the former legal practice.
  • Defending the criminal prosecution brought by the ACCC under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) of a national jewellery retailer for misleading advertising over was/now pricing.
  • Acting for a major gaming machine manufacturer and the national industry association in relation to various public inquiries regarding a range of proposed Commonwealth and State regulatory reforms to the gaming industry.
  • Representing the previous detention services provider to the Commonwealth Government in civil claims and public inquiries about immigration detention including the much publicised HREOC Inquiry into the Detention of Children.
  • Acting for an international food and beverage distributor in its South Australian litigation including a number of major Federal Court matters that have involved contract, trade practices and competition issues as well as product liability and intellectual property claims.
  • Conducting a successful test case about the proper application of the harm minimisation legislation introduced in South Australia to protect problem gamblers.
  • Conducting a series of litigated matters for a manufacturer concerning the interpretation of key provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1993 (SA) in relation to long term emissions from its manufacturing facility.
  • Representing the Auditor General of South Australia in his inquiry and report to the Parliament of South Australia on the redevelopment of the Hindmarsh Soccer Stadium. This Inquiry involved close scrutiny of the regulatory and political framework for which a major public infrastructure project was undertaken with a particular focus on principles of good governance and public administration in the procurement of public works.
  • For five years defending a US manufacturer of electronic colour reproduction equipment in a major Federal Court dispute that finally resolved on appeal to the High Court.
  • For five years conducting a $20M dispute between major banks over cheque kiting involving investigation and evidence of the entire cheque clearing system of Australian banks between 1986 and 1991.
  • For several years, acting for investors/borrowers against the Pegasus group in a series of cases concerning thoroughbred investment products. Karen’s expertise in this area was later recognised by her appointment as a consultant to the South Australian Government’s Taskforce to review the State Bank group’s exposure to the Pegasus group’s financing activities.
  • Acting for a South Australian university in the conduct of a $20M Federal Court case that involved trade practices and probity issues in the context of a Commonwealth Government CRC grant.

Doyles Guide

  • Leading Litigation & Dispute Resolution Lawyers – Adelaide, 2015 (Leading)
  • Leading Commercial Litigation & Dispute Resolution Lawyers – Adelaide, 2016 (Leading)
  • Leading Commercial Litigation & Dispute Resolution Lawyers - SA, 2017 (Leading)
  • Leading Construction & Infrastructure Litigation Lawyers – SA, 2018 (Recommended)
  • Leading Commercial Litigation & Dispute Resolution Lawyers – SA, 2018 (Leading)

Best Lawyers Awards

  • Recognised in Litigation – Adelaide, 2020
  • Recognised in Alternative Dispute Resolution – Adelaide, 2020
  • Recognised in Construction/Infrastructure Law – Adelaide, 2020
  • Recognised in Insurance Law – Adelaide, 2020