Category Archives: Landmark cases

Sharp v Stephen Guinery t/as Port Kembla Hotel and Port Kembla Rsl Club [2001] NSWSC 336 | 23 April 2001

ON THIS DAY in 2001, Justice Peter McClellan of the Supreme Court of NSW delivered Sharp v Stephen Guinery t/as Port Kembla Hotel and Port Kembla Rsl Club [2001] NSWSC 336 (23 April 2001).

“Judgment on application for verdict by direction

negligence action

whether plaintiff precluded from putting a case in negligence to jury

whether evidence of breach of duty

whether evidence which could establish that the taking of any step would have eliminated risk of plaintiff’s injury

whether evidence before the jury that the risk of injury from tobacco smoke was reasonably foreseeable

whether rule in Browne v Dunn has application

s 23(4), s 42(1) Factories, Shops & Industries Act 1962”

Sharp had sought damages from her employer alleging that her exposure to tobacco smoke as a barmaid resulted in her suffering from laryngeal cancer.  The case was heard before a jury.

The judgment led to jury directions which resulted in a finding that the cancer was caused, or materially contributed to, by the employer’s negligence.

On 2 May 2001, the jury awarded Sharp damages of $466,000 plus costs.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/nsw/NSWSC/2001/336.html

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Viro v R [1978] HCA 9 | 11 April 1978

ON THIS DAY in 1978, the High Court of Australia delivered Viro v R [1978] HCA 9; (1978) 141 CLR 88 (11 April 1978).

The High Court held that it is no longer bound by decisions of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.  The court is “pre-eminently equipped to decide what is the law for Australia”.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1978/9.html

 

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Mallet v Mallet [1984] HCA 21 | 10 April 1984

ON THIS DAY in 1984, the High Court of Australia delivered Mallet v Mallet [1984] HCA 21; (1984) 156 CLR 605 (10 April 1984).

Equality had long been the starting point when dividing matrimonial property on divorce.  The High Court in this case held that there is not to be a presumption of equality and that each case is to be determined upon a consideration of it’s particular circumstances.

Section 79(4) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) requires consideration of the financial contributions, non-financial contributions and parental and/or homemaker services.

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Hawkins v Clayton [1988] HCA 15 | 8 April 1988

ON 8 APRIL 1988, the High Court of Australia delivered Hawkins v Clayton [1988] HCA 15; (1988) 164 CLR 539 (8 April 1988).

A firm of solicitors was held to be negligent by failing to take reasonable steps to locate an executor (a non-client) following the death of a testatrix (a client whose will they prepared and retained for safe keeping) for some six years after the testatrix’s death.  The solicitors were held to be liable to pay damages for the loss suffered by the executor (who was also a residuary beneficiary) in not being able to manage the estate during the period of delay.

The majority (Brennan, Deane and Gaudron JJ) held that the solicitors owed a tortious duty of care to the executor and that the action was not statute-barred.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1988/15.html

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McKinney v R [1991] HCA 6 | 22 March 1991

ON THIS DAY IN 1991, the High Court of Australia delivered McKinney v R [1991] HCA 6; (1991) 171 CLR 468 (22 March 1991).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1991/6.html

A trial judge must warn a jury of the dangers of convicting the accused on the basis of their alleged admissions whilst in custody.

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Burnie Port Authority v General Jones Pty Ltd [1994] HCA 13 | 24 MARCH 1994

ON THIS DAY IN 1994, the High Court of Australia delivered Burnie Port Authority v General Jones Pty Ltd [1994] HCA 13; (1994) 179 CLR 520; (1994) Aust Torts Reports 81-264; (1994) 120 ALR 42; (1994) 68 ALJR 331 (24 March 1994). The rule in Rylands v Fletcher was abolished so that the determination of liability for harm caused by dangerous substances or activities on premises comes under the principles of negligence rather than strict liability.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1994/13.html

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McKinney v R [1991] HCA 6 | 22 MARCH 1991

ON THIS DAY IN 1991, the High Court of Australia delivered McKinney v R [1991] HCA 6; (1991) 171 CLR 468 (22 March 1991).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1991/6.html

A trial judge must warn a jury of the dangers of convicting the accused on the basis of their alleged admissions whilst in custody.

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Hadley v Baxendale [1854] EWHC Exch J70 | 23 February 1854

ON THIS DAY IN 1854, the Court of Exchequer Chamber delivered Hadley v Baxendale [1854] EWHC Exch J70
(1854) 9 Ex Ch 341; 156 ER 145 (23 February 1854).

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Exch/1854/J70.html

The decision lays down the rule for assessing damages for breach of contract. There are two limbs: (1) losses which “may fairly and reasonably be considered either arising naturally, i.e., according to the usual course of things, from such breach of contract itself”; or (2) losses which “may reasonably be supposed to have been in the contemplation of the parties, at the time they made the contract, as the probable result of the breach of it”.

Per Alderson B:

“Now we think the proper rule is such as the present is this: Where two parties have made a contract which one of them has broken, the damages which the other party ought to receive in respect of such breach of contract should be such as may fairly and reasonably be considered either arising naturally, i.e., according to the usual course of things, from such breach of contract itself, or such as may reasonably be supposed to have been in the contemplation of both parties, at the time they made the contract, as the probable result of the breach of it. Now, if the special circumstances under which the contract was actually made where communicated by the plaintiffs to the defendants, and thus known to both parties, the damages resulting from the breach of such a contract, which they would reasonably contemplate, would be the amount of injury which would ordinarily follow from a breach of contract under these special circumstances so known and communicated. But, on the other hand, if these special circumstances were wholly unknown to the party breaking the contract, he, at the most, could only be supposed to have had in his contemplation the amount of injury which would arise generally, and in the great multitude of cases not affected by any special circumstances, from such a breach of contract. For such loss would neither have flowed naturally from the breach of this contract in the great multitude of such cases occurring under ordinary circumstances, nor were the special circumstances, which, perhaps, would have made it a reasonable and natural consequence of such breach of contract, communicated to or known by the defendants. The Judge ought, therefore, to have told the jury, that, upon the fats then before them, they ought not to take the loss of profits into consideration at all in estimating the damages. There must therefore be a new trial in this case.”

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Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan: New Zealand intervening) | International Court of Justice

ON 31 MARCH 2014, the International Court of Justice found Japan’s Antarctic whaling program to be not in accordance with the relevant international convention.

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Harriton v Stephens [2006] HCA 15

ON THIS DAY in 2006, the High Court of Australia delivered Harriton v Stephens [2006] HCA 15; (2006) 226 CLR 52; (2006) 226 ALR 391; (2006) 80 ALJR 791 (9 May 2006).

Harriton, a child born with profound disabilities, brought an action against her mother’s doctor in negligence for a failure to warn her mother of the risk of her being born with such disabilities due to the mother’s contraction of the rubella virus during the pregnancy. Her mother said she would have terminated the pregnancy if she had been advised of the risks.

Harriton sought damages for past and future medical treatment and care, general damages and loss of income and had been unsuccessful before the Supreme Court of NSW and NSW Court of Appeal.

The High Court refused the appeal, holding that there was no legally recognisable damage as it could not be determined that the child’s life represented a loss, deprivation or detriment compared with the life being terminated; and the law cannot make comparisons with the life of an able bodied child or a notional life without disabilities.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2006/15.html

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