Cattanach v Melchior [2003] HCA 38 | 16 July 2003

ON 16 JULY 2003, the High Court of Australia delivered Cattanach v Melchior [2003] HCA 38; 215 CLR 1; 199 ALR 131; 77 ALJR 1312 (16 July 2003).

A woman went to a doctor for a sterilisation procedure as she and her husband did not intend to have any more children. She told the doctor that she believed that her right fallopian tube had been removed when she was 15. The doctor performed a tubal ligation on the left fallopian tube and made no further investigation regarding the right tube. As it turned out, the right tube had not been removed and the woman later fell pregnant, unintentionally.

The woman and her husband sued the doctor and the State of Queensland (who ran the hospital) seeking damages for negligence on the grounds that the doctor failed to advise the woman of the risks of conceiving without specific investigation of the right fallopian tube.

The woman and her husband were awarded damages for the costs of raising and maintaining the healthy but unintended child, despite those damages being for pure economic loss (ie not arising from any actual injury).

The Civil Liability Acts have since prohibited awards of damages for the costs of rearing or maintaining a child or the parents’ loss of earnings whilst rearing or maintaining a child.


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