Yesterday a majority of the High Court of Australia held that s
7(1)(b) of the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence and
Tortfeasors' Contribution) Act 1947 (WA) ("the
Act"), which provides that a person bringing more than one
action in respect of damage suffered as the result of a tort cannot
recover more than "the amount of the damages awarded by the
judgment first given", does not apply to a consent judgment
entered to give effect to an agreement to settle a proceeding.
In 2004 the respondent injured his knee in the course of his
employment at a mine site in Western Australia. The respondent
claimed workers' compensation payments and common law damages
from his employer. The claim was settled in 2007 by way of a
consent judgment entered in the District Court of Western
Australia, with no admission as to liability in respect of any
cause of action. In 2008, the respondent commenced proceedings for
negligence against the appellant, which owned and operated the mine
site where the respondent had been injured. The appellant invoked s
7(1)(b) of the Act. A Deputy Registrar of the District Court
dismissed the respondent's action, and a Judge of that Court
dismissed an appeal from that decision. The Court of Appeal allowed
the respondent's appeal. The appellant appealed, by special
leave, to the High Court.
A majority of the High Court dismissed the appeal, holding that
the consent judgment did not fall within the terms of s 7(1)(b)
because there had been no judicial determination of liability and
no consequent award of damages. Instead, the consent judgment was a
means of giving effect to a settlement agreement between the
parties. The majority observed that excluding consent orders from
the operation of s 7(1)(b) was not inconsistent with the intended
purpose of the provision.
This statement, taken from the High Court website, is not
intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the High Court or to
be used in any later consideration of the Court's
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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