Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW v Dederer [2007] HCA 42 | 30 August 2007

ON 30 AUGUST 2007, the High Court of Australia delivered Roads and Traffic Authority of NSW v Dederer [2007] HCA 42 (30 August 2007).

Mr Dederer became a partial paraplegic when at the age of 14 he dived from a bridge into the Wollamba River, striking a sandbank.

Dederer sued the Roads and Traffic Authority and the Great Lakes Shire Council for damages arising from their alleged negligence.

The Supreme Court of NSW awarded damages of $840,000, finding contributory negligence of the plaintiff in the order of 25%. The damages were apportioned with the RTA to pay 80% and the council 20%. The NSW Court of Appeal upheld an appeal against the decision against the council and dismissed an appeal oft the decision against the RTA but increased the contributory negligence from 25% to 50%.

The RTA appealed to the High Court of Australia. Dederer cross appealed against the increase in contributory negligence.

The High Court upheld the RTA’s appeal and dismissed the cross appeal. The court held that the duty of care to exercise reasonable care does not impose an obligation to prevent potentially harmful conduct. The court found that the RTA’s duty was to ensure that the road is safe for users taking reasonable care for their own safety. The RTA was held to have reasonably responded to the risk by erecting “no diving” signs. The court found that erecting fences would not necessarily stop people from diving or jumping from bridges.

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