Dey v Victorian Railways Commissioners [1949] HCA 1

Dey v Victorian Railways Commissioners [1949] HCA 1; (1949) 78 CLR 62 (22 February 1949).

“Workers’ Compensation – Injury by accident arising out of or in course of employment – Death of worker – Negligence of employer – Option of dependants to apply for compensation or take other proceedings – Award of compensation obtained by widow on behalf of herself and children – Effect of award as barring claim by dependants under Lord Campbell’s Act – Workers’ Compensation Acts 1928- 1946 (No. 3806 – No. 5128) (Vict.)* – Wrongs Act 1928 (No. 3807) (Vict.), Part III. – The 1946 Workers’ Compensation Rules, rr. 8, 81.*
Practice – Supreme Court (Vict.) – Dismissal of action – Abuse of process – Inherent jurisdiction – Rules of the Supreme Court (Vict.), Order XXV., rr. 2, 4.”

A widow who had received a workers compensation award for her late husband’s death was not entitled to maintain a compensation to relatives action in her own right but the infant children were competent to sue by their next friend.

Per Dixon J at 91:

“The application [to dismiss proceedings on the grounds of being frivolous, vexatious and abuse of process] is really made to the inherent jurisdiction of the court to stop the abuse of its process when it is employed for groundless claims. The principles upon which that jurisdiction is exercisable are well settled. A case must be very clear indeed to justify the summary intervention of the court to prevent a plaintiff submitting his case for determination in the appointed manner by the court with or without a jury. The fact that a transaction is intricate may not disentitle the court to examine a cause of action alleged to grow out of it for the purpose of seeing whether the proceeding amounts to an abuse of process or is vexatious. But once it appears that there is a real question to be determined whether of fact or law and that the rights of the parties depend upon it, then it is not competent for the court to dismiss the action as frivolous and vexatious and an abuse of process.”


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