Canada: Australian Fraudsters: Definition Of Concurrent Wrongdoer Tied To Loss

When is a fraudulent and negligent tortfeasor a "concurrent wrongdoer"? In Hunt & Hunt Lawyers v. Mitchell Morgan Nominees, the High Court of Australia has clarified the definition of a concurrent wrongdoer finding that liability can be apportioned under Part 4 of the Civil Liability Act where the damage caused by one or more concurrent wrongdoers is the same. The reasoning behind the apportionment of loss made by the court is instructive on the meaning of concurrent wrongdoing with potential application to other common law regimes.


Angelo Caradonna and Alessio Vella entered into a business venture and together opened a joint bank account taking possession of shares of three properties. Mr. Vella obtained possession of the certificates of title and forged Mr. Caradonna's signature to obtain a mortgage from Mitchell Morgan. The forgery was certified by Mr. Flammia, Mr. Caradonna's cousin and solicitor (Mr. Flammia and Mr. Caradonna are defined collectively by the Court as the "fraudsters"). Hunt & Hunt Lawyers ("Hunt & Hunt") acted as Mitchell Morgan's solicitor on the transaction. Subsequently, Mitchell Morgan advanced $1,000,748.85 to the account of Mr. Caradonna & Mr. Vella, which was withdrawn by Mr. Caradonna alone. At the time the proceedings were instituted, the fraudsters were bankrupt.

Australia's Civil Liability Act is distinct from the concurrent liability regime that exists in Canada's common law provinces. For example, Section 1 of Ontario's Negligence Act states that concurrent tortfeasors are jointly and severally liable to the plaintiff. The legislative regimes that exist in each of Canada's other common law provinces similarly hold concurrent tortfeasors to be jointly and severally liable. In contrast, Section 35(1) in Part 4 of the CLA limits a defendant's liability to a successful plaintiff to the defendant's proportionate liability, as determined by the court. Under Section 34(2), a "concurrent wrongdoer" is defined as "a person who is one of two or more persons whose acts or omissions (or act or omission) caused, independently of each other or jointly, the damage or loss that is the subject of the claim".

At first instance, Young CJ in Vella v Permanent Mortgages Pty Ltd [2008] NSWSC 505 held that the fraudsters and Hunt & Hunt were together concurrent tortfeasors under Part 4 of the CLA, the latter for breaching the duty of care owed to Mitchell Morgan by failing to include a covenant to repay a stated amount when preparing the mortgage documents. Mitchell Morgan's claim against Hunt & Hunt was found to be an apportionable claim limited to 12.5% of Mitchell Morgan's loss.

The New South Wales Court of Appeal overturned Young CJ's decision in Mitchell Morgan Nominees Pty Ltd v. Vella [2011] NSWCA 390, holding that the fraudsters and Hunt & Hunt were not concurrent wrongdoers. While the fraudsters were found to have caused Mitchell Morgan to advance loan funds, Hunt & Hunt was found to have denied Mitchell Morgan the benefit of security for the money paid out. The damage caused by Hunt & Hunt was found to be distinct from that caused by the fraudsters.

The Decision

In its decision, the High Court focused its analysis on two questions:

  1. What is the damage or loss?
  2. Did the acts of any person, other than the defendant, cause the damage or loss?

The court found that the damage forming the subject of a claim is distinct from "damages" ultimately awarded by the court as compensation. The Court confirmed that the damage suffered by Mitchell Morgan under s. 34(2) of the CLA was its inability to recover the monies loaned. The Court's decision is distinct from the finding made by the Court of Appeal that Mitchell Morgan suffered two forms of damage (1) harm to its economic interests by paying out money when it would not otherwise have done so and (2) not having the benefit of security for the money paid out. The Court held that these statements identify the effects of the fraudsters' conduct, but do not properly identify the damage suffered by Mitchell Morgan. In the Court's conclusion, the acts of both the fraudsters and Hunt & Hunt were found to result in the same damage to Mitchell Morgan. In addition, the Court held that the conduct of the fraudsters led to the creation of the mortgage documents and thus was a contributing material cause to the ultimate damage suffered.

The Court confirmed that it is not a requirement of proportionate liability that the actions of one concurrent wrongdoer contribute to the negligence of another concurrent wrongdoer as long as each are found to have materially contributed to the damage suffered. In determining causation, the Court held that it is accepted that value judgments and policy considerations be considered to determine whether an act is sufficiently causative of the plaintiff's damage. Once causation of a concurrent wrongdoer is established in accordance with s.34(2), more extensive value judgments must be made by the court under s. 35(1) to determine the extent of each defendant's responsibility.

In conclusion, the Court held that Hunt & Hunt and the fraudsters were both concurrent wrongdoers as both materially contributed to the damage caused. However, the Court found that Hunt & Hunt could not have foreseen the fraudsters' forgery and that it was inconsistent with Part 4 that Hunt & Hunt be held wholly responsible for the damage given the fraudsters' conduct. The Court held that Hunt & Hunt should be responsible only for the share for which it was found responsible by the trial judge (12.5%). Special leave to appeal interest, awarded in accordance with the contract by the Court of Appeal, was denied.

The dissenting minority concluded that Hunt & Hunt was not a concurrent wrongdoer, that the damage caused by the actions of the fraudsters and Hunt & Hunt were distinct and that the Court of Appeal was correct to hold that that the fraudsters did not cause the economic loss – the lack of security – that was the subject of the claim by Mitchell Morgan against Hunt & Hunt.

Potential Significance

Acknowledging that the statutory framework in Australia distinguishes Australian negligence law from that which exists in Canada, this case is nonetheless instructive on the meaning and interpretation of concurrent wrongdoing. It may be relevant to provisions such as s. 138.6 of the Ontario Securities Act which creates a proportionate liability regime for secondary market misrepresentations absent fraud. In addition, the Court's reasoning may be helpful to courts when grappling with multifactorial causation questions including the concepts of joint concurrent tortfeasors, several concurrent tortfeasors, joint non-concurrent tortfeasors and several non-concurrent tortfeasors. Finally, given the ever increasing costs of liability insurance in Canada, the statutory regime in Australia regarding proportionate liability could foreshadow action taken by legislators in Canada to control this rising cost.

Case Information

Hunt & Hunt Lawyers v. Mitchell Morgan Nominees Pty Ltd, [2013] HCA 10

To view original article, please click here

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.