ON 12 DECEMBER 2012, the High Court of Australia delivered Certain Lloyd’s Underwriters Subscribing to Contract No IH00AAQS v Cross  HCA 56 (12 December 2012).
Costs – Limit on maximum costs in connection with claim for “personal injury damages” – Legal Profession Act 1987 (NSW), ss 198C and 198D – Where “personal injury damages” defined to have same meaning as in Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) – Whether maximum costs limitation applies to claims for personal injury damages resulting from intentional acts.
Statutory interpretation – Principles – Reading provision in context – Whether, when operative statute adopts term in source statute, account must be taken of operation of term in source statute – Effect of amendments to statute.
Words and phrases – “award of personal injury damages”, “claim for personal injury damages”, “maximum costs”, “personal injury damages”, “same meaning”.
The respondents had been awarded damages for personal injuries from being assaulted by hotel security staff. The appellant was the insurer of the company which employed the staff.
The damages awarded were under $100,000. Section 198D of the Legal Profession Act 1987 (NSW) provided that where the amount recovered on a claim for personal injury damages did not exceed $100,000 the maximum costs for legal services provided to a plaintiff were fixed at 20% of the amount recovered or $10,000, whichever was greater.
Section 198C of the Legal Profession Act provided that the meaning of “personal injury damages” had the same meaning as that in the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW). Under the Civil Liability Act 2002, awards of damages for personal injury are limited with certain exceptions, one being cases of personal injuries arising from intentional acts.
The respondents argued that s198D must be construed with the exceptions under the Civil Liability Act so that it did not operate with regards to awards for personal injury damages arising from intentional acts.
The High Court allowed appeals brought by the insurer, holding that claims damages for personal injury arising from intentional acts were claims for personal injury damages within the meaning of s198D of the Legal Profession Act. The effect of this decision is that the costs payable by the insurer to the respondents was limited under s198D even though the injuries were received as a result of an intentional act.
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