Puttick v Tenon Limited (formerly called Fletcher
Challenge Forests Limited)  HCA 54
High Court explains which court can hear the plaintiff's
Readers may recall Mrs Puttick's plight (see Product Risk
Review 2006). Mr Puttick had been employed in New Zealand by a New
Zealand-based company. His duties included the inspection of
factories in Malaysia and Belgium and in the course of his
employment he was exposed to asbestos and was subsequently
diagnosed with mesothelioma in Victoria.
He had commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria
but had subsequently died, leaving his widow to continue the
proceedings. Mrs Puttick submitted that the place of the wrong was
Victoria because the cause of action was not completed until damage
was suffered – which was Victoria – and any
acts in New Zealand, namely the direction to inspect the factories,
was without legal consequences until there was exposure to asbestos
and subsequent injury.
She had failed to convince the Supreme Court of Victoria - both
at first instance and upon appeal - that it should hear her
compensation claim arising out of the death of her husband. Her
action had been stayed on the basis that it had been brought in a
clearly inappropriate forum.
The High Court allowed her appeal. It thought that the Court of
Appeal (and the primary judge) had made a mistake when they thought
that they had sufficient information to was sufficient to decide
what law (or laws) governed the rights and duties of the parties.
Rather, the High Court thought that the correct decision was it was
only arguable that the law of New Zealand was the law that governed
the determination of those rights and duties.
Further, the High Court was of the view that the respondent did
not establish that Victoria is a clearly inappropriate forum.
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This was an interlocutory decision about the appointment of a tutor for the child appellant, to carry on his proceedings.
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