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LAW OF TORTS. Defences to Negligence. Roadmap for Today. Contributory Negligence Common Law Development Statutory Apportionment Voluntary Assumption of Risk Illegality. A practice question.

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LAW OF TORTS

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Law of torts

LAW OF TORTS

Defences to Negligence


Roadmap for today

Roadmap for Today

  • Contributory Negligence

    • Common Law Development

    • Statutory Apportionment

  • Voluntary Assumption of Risk

  • Illegality


A practice question

A practice question

  • Homer and Marge owned a home on a river in Orange, NSW. One Saturday night, their son Bart was home alone. He invited a mate over, Milhouse, and they had a night out, coming home very drunk early the next morning. Milhouse woke up after an hour really hot, and decided to go for a swim in the river.

  • Milhouse had been here heaps of times, but it was a very dark night. He stood on the low fence separating the property from the river, and jumped in head first. River was only a metre deep, so he became paraplegic.

  • Assume the owners breached their DOC by not providing warning sign and put in a higher fence. What defence would be available to the Homer and Marge (as owners of house).


Defences to actions in negligence

DEFENCES TO ACTIONS IN NEGLIGENCE

COMMON LAW

  • Contributory negligence

  • Voluntary assumption of risk, volenti non fit injuria

  • Illegality

    CIVIL LIABILITY ACT

  • Pt 1A - ss5F to I: Assumption of Risk

    - ss5R to T: Contributory Negligence

  • Pt 5- Public Authorities

  • Pt 6 Intoxication

  • Pt 7 Self-Defence & Recovery by Criminals


Contributory negligence

Contributory Negligence

Earlier approaches in Common Law:

The complete defence (Williams v Commissioner for Road Transport (1933) 50 CLR 258)

  • Butterfield v Forrester (1809) 11 East 60

    - The last opportunity rule

    The development of apportionment legislation


Contributory negligence at common law the nature of the p s conduct

Contributory Negligence at Common Law: The nature of the P’s conduct

D must prove:

  • The P was at fault or negligent

    • Children: Doubleday v Kelly [2005] NSWCA 151

    • Intoxication: Joselyn v Berryman

  • The fault or negligence contributed to the injury or loss suffered by P (causation)

    • Froom v Butcher [1976] 1 QB 286

  • The damage was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the P’s fault or negligence


1 fault joslyn v berryman wentworth shire council v berryman 2003 hca 34 18 june 2003

1. FAULTJoslyn v Berryman; Wentworth Shire Council v Berryman [2003] HCA 34 (18 June 2003)

  • Facts

  • Trial – Boyd-Boland ADCJ found for Mr Berrymen but reduced damages by 25% for contributory negligence.


Joslyn v berryman

Joslyn v Berryman

  • NSWCA - Meagher J (leading judgment)

  • "His Honour, as I have said, made a finding of 25% contributory negligence against the plaintiff. The only action of his which could possibly have amounted to contributory negligence was permitting Miss Joslyn to drive instead of him….One must also, if one concludes that at the time of handing over Mr Berryman was too drunk to appreciate what was happening, a situation as to which there is no evidence in the present case, judge the question of contributory negligence on the hypothesis that the plaintiff did have sufficient foresight to make reasonable judgments. But, although at the time of the accident the blood alcohol levels of Miss Joslyn and Mr Berryman were estimated as being 0.138g/100ml and 0.19g/100ml respectively, there is no evidence that either of them were drunk at the time, and certainly no evidence that at the time Mr Berryman had any reason to think that Miss Joslyn was affected by intoxication. Indeed, quite to the contrary. Of the people who were present who gave evidence, all said that Miss Joslyn showed no signs of intoxication. His Honour so found.”


Joslyn v berryman1

Joslyn v Berryman

  • HC – McHugh, Gummow, Callinan, Kirby & Hayne JJ allowed the appeal (ie. Overturned the decision of the NSWCA)


Joslyn v berryman2

Joslyn v Berryman

  • Gummow & Callinan JJ –

    “A person in the position of Mr Berryman ought to have known, and in fact would have known (if he had not precluded himself from knowing by his own conduct) that Ms Joslyn's capacity must have been impaired, and probably grossly so, by the amount of alcohol she had drunk, not only during the immediately preceding evening, but also on the night before that. Furthermore Mr Berryman either knew, or ought to have known that the effects of two consecutive evenings of immoderate consumption would have had a compounding effect of tiredness and reduced attentiveness upon both of them... Factually the Court of Appeal erred in not finding that Mr Berryman's and Ms Joslyn's faculties, and accordingly their capacities to observe, react, assimilate, and deal with information and to drive a motor vehicle must have been seriously impaired by the consumption of alcohol”.


Motor accidents compensation act 1988 s74

Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1988 s74

  • A finding of contributory negligence must be made in the following cases:

    • where the injured person or deceased person has been convicted of an alcohol or other drug-related offence in relation to the motor accident…

    • Where the driver’s ability to control vehicle was impaired by alcohol and the P as an adult voluntary passenger was/ought to have been aware of this…

    • Where the injured party was not wearing set belt/protective helmet, and was required by law to wear such belt/helmet


Civil liability act 2002

Civil Liability Act 2002

  • s5S – a court may determine a reduction of 100% if it is just and equitable to do so

    : compare Wynbergen –v- Hoyts Corp (1997) 149 ALR 25

  • s5T – a court may reduce a claim for damages under the Compensation to Relatives Act 1897 for contributory negligence of the deceased

  • S50(4) – a presumption of contributory negligence of 25% if the plaintiff was intoxicated at the time of injury


2 causation

2. CAUSATION

  • Question of fact- was the damage suffered by the P caused caused by their own negligence?

  • Monie v Commonwealth [2007] NSWCA 230


3 reasonably foreseeable

3. REASONABLY FORESEEABLE

  • Type of injury must be reasonably foreseeable in the circumstances.

    - Gent-Diver v Neville [1953] St R Qd 1


Contributory negligence of rescuers

Contributory Negligence of Rescuers

  • Azzopardi v Constable; Azzopardi v Thompson [2006] NSWCA 319


The substance of apportionment legislation

The Substance of Apportionment Legislation

- Courts directed to reduce damages recoverable to what it thinks to be ‘just and equitable.’

Law Reform (Miscellaneous) Act 1965 (NSW) s9

(1) Where any person suffers damage as the result partly of his/her own fault and partly of the fault of any other persons,

(a) a claim in respect of that damage shall not be defeated by reason of the fault of the person suffering the damage, and

(b) the damages recoverable in respect thereof shall be reduced to such extent as the court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant’s share in the responsibility for the damage


What is just and equitable

What is Just and Equitable?

Pennington v Norris (1956) 96 CLR 10

  • “By culpability we do not mean moral blameworthiness but degree of departure from the standard care of the reasonable man.”(at 16)

    Reasonableness must be judged in light of all the circumstances: Joslyn v Berryman

    - Wynbergen -v- Hoyts Corporation P/L (1997)


Contributory negligence under the civil liability act

Contributory Negligence under the Civil Liability Act

  • s5R (standard of CN- same as negligence)

  • s5S (CN can defeat a claim)

    - In determining the extent of a reduction in damages by reason of CN, a court may determine a reduction of 100% if the court thinks it just and equitable to do so, with the result that the claim is defeated.


Wrapping up contributory negligence

Wrapping up Contributory Negligence

At common law: D must prove

  • The P was at fault or negligent

  • The fault or negligence contributed to the injury or loss suffered by P (causation)

  • The damage was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the P’s fault or negligence

    Statutory Apportionment


Voluntary assumption of risk volenti non fit injuria

Voluntary Assumption of RiskVolenti Non Fit Injuria

  • Rootes v Shelton (1967) 116 CLR 383

  • The elements

    • P must have full knowledge of the risk

    • P must have voluntarily accepted the physical and legal risk

  • Hard to prove

    • Rootes v Shelton (1967) 116 CLR 383


Volenti v contributory negligence

Volenti v Contributory Negligence

Ipp Committee Report (2002):at 8.23

Since the introduction of the defence of contributory negligence, the defence of voluntary assumption of risk has become more or less defunct. This is because any conduct that could amount to voluntary assumption of risk would also amount to contributory negligence .

Courts prefer the defence of contributory negligence because it enables them to apportion damages…

  • Difference: CN requires degree of fault, volenti doesn’t


Full knowledge of risk

Full Knowledge of Risk

  • Subjective test: very difficult for the D to prove as mereknowledge alone does not imply consent.

    • Canterbury Municipal Council v Taylor [2000] NSWCA 24

    • Carey v Lake Macquarie City Council [2007] Aust Tort Reports 81-874

    • Leyden v Caboolture Shire Council [2007] QCA 134


Voluntary acceptance of risk

Voluntary acceptance of risk

2 elements:

The P must have voluntarily accepted that there was a:

  • Physical risk (through injury), and

  • A risk that reasonable care would not be taken by the D (legal risk)

  • Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd v Shatwell [1965] AC 656


Law of torts

Rootes v Shelton (1967) 116 CLR 383

“To say that the P voluntarily assumed the risk of colliding with an obstruction in the water is one thing. To say that the D would carelessly fail to warn him of the presence of such an obstruction or would fail to exercise due care in steering the launch of which he had control is a very different proposition…” (at 395)


Voluntary assumption of risk

Voluntary Assumption of Risk

  • Scanlon v American Cigarette Company Overseas Pty Ltd (No 3) [1987] VR 289

    • If it is to be the case that the smoking of the said cigarettes involved risk of injury as alleged… the P knew or ought to have known that the smoking of the said cigarettes involved such risk and the P accepted, consented to and voluntarily assumed the same (extract from D’s statement of defence)


Civil liability act 20021

Civil Liability Act 2002

Assumption of Risk (Part 1A, Division 4)

  • Does not replace the common law, rather:

  • Rebuttable presumption that a P was aware of a risk of harm if that risk is an ‘obvious risk’: s5G

  • No duty to warn of obvious risk, unless P requests info about the risk, warning is required by law: s5H

  • Excludes liability for materialisation of an inherent risk: s5I Wyong Shire Council v Vairy [2004] NSWCA 247


Sport and recreational activities

Sport and Recreational Activities

  • By engaging in a sport or pastime the participants may be held to have accepted the risk which are inherent in the sport: Agar v Hyde (2000) 201 CLR 383

    • Woods v Multi-Sport Holdings Pty Lts (2002) 208 CLR 460

  • Inherent risk only those which are naturally incidental to the game being played and any extraordinary, although foreseeable, risks incidental to that sport.


Civil liability act 20022

Civil Liability Act 2002

Recreational Activities (Part 1A, Division 5)

s5K- definitions

In this Division: 
"dangerous recreational activity" means a recreational activity that involves a significant risk of physical harm. 
"obvious risk" has the same meaning as it has in Division 4. 
"recreational activity" includes:

  • any sport (whether or not the sport is an organised activity), and

  • any pursuit or activity engaged in for enjoyment, relaxation or leisure, and

  • any pursuit or activity engaged in at a place (such as a beach, park or other public open space) where people ordinarily engage in sport or in any pursuit or activity for enjoyment, relaxation or leisure.


Civil liability act 20023

Civil Liability Act 2002

Recreational Activities (Part 1A, Division 5)

S5L- no liability for harm suffered materialisation of obvious risks of dangerous recreational activities

s5M- no duty of care for recreational activity where there is a risk warning


Swain v waverley municipal council 2005 how the hc may view recreational activity

Swain v Waverley Municipal Council (2005) How the HC may view “recreational activity”

MR MENZIES QC:It is the Civil Liability Act 2002 and it Division 5 “Recreational Activities” - - -

  • GUMMOW J: What does it say? What is the critical provision?

  • MR MENZIES QC: Well, 5J applies only in respect of liability in negligence for harm to a person (“the plaintiff”) resulting from a recreational activity engaged in by the plaintiff. Recreational activity is divided into two kinds. There is;

  • “dangerous recreational activity” means a recreational activity that involves a significant risk of physical harm.That is in the definition section 5K, and:

  • “recreational activity” includes:(a) any sport . . . (b) any pursuit or activity engaged in for enjoyment, relaxation or leisure, and(c) any pursuit or activity engaged in at a place (such as a beach, etc.)

  • 5L No liability for harm suffered from obvious risks of dangerous recreational activities . . . 5M No duty of care for recreational activity where risk warning –so that liability would seem to be excluded if a risk warning is put up, assuming this is a recreational activity. If, on the other hand, as Chief Justice Gleeson points out, this might well be regarded as a dangerous recreational activity, you do not even have to put a sign up, that is the end of it.


Swain insight to how the hc may view recreational activity

Swain – Insight to how the HC may view “recreational activity”

  • KIRBY J: It does not sound as though this is categorised. That is paragliding and things of that kind, I would have thought, because they say, “such as on a beach” in the definition of “recreational activity”.

  • MR MENZIES QC: True.

  • GLEESON CJ: What about recreational activities that are dangerous for some people, like people who cannot swim, and not dangerous for others?

  • MR MENZIES QC: I have no doubt that at some point that is going to entertain your Honours.

  • GUMMOW J: Here we are again, more imperfect law reform.


Wrapping up var

Wrapping up VAR

  • VAR is tough to for the D to prove as D would have to prove:

  • P had full knowledge of the risk and

  • Voluntarily accepted the physical and legal risk.


Illegality

Illegality

Who has been acting illegally?

  • The P?

  • The D?

  • Both?- Joint Illegal Enterprise

  • D may be able to be absolved from negligence liability


Joint illegal enterprise

Joint Illegal Enterprise

D must prove:

  • They and the P were jointly engaged in an illegal activity, and

  • There was a connection between the illegal activity and the negligent conduct

    Jackson v Harrison (1978) 138 CLR 438

  • The conduct within the illegal enterprise must be connected to the alleged negligence


Plaintiff illegal activity

Plaintiff Illegal Activity

  • At common law:

    - Just because the P was engaged in criminal conduct at time of injury doesn’t necessarily prevent duty from being owed: Hackshaw v Shaw (1984) CLR 614


Civil liability act 20024

Civil Liability Act 2002

Illegality

  • S54 – criminals not to be awarded damages if:

    (a) on the balance of probabilities, the conduct constitutes a “serious offence”, and

    (b) that conduct contributed materially to the risk of death, injury or damage.


Wrap up

Wrap-Up

  • Contributory Negligence

    • Common Law Development

    • Statutory Apportionment

  • Voluntary Assumption of Risk

  • Illegality


A practice question1

A practice question

  • Homer and Marge owned a home on a river in Orange, NSW. One Saturday night, their son Bart was home alone. He invited a mate over, Milhouse, and they had a night out, coming home very drunk early the next morning. Milhouse woke up after an hour really hot, and decided to go for a swim in the river.

  • Milhouse had been here heaps of times, but it was a very dark night. He stood on the low fence separating the property from the river, and jumped in head first. River was only a metre deep, so he became paraplegic.

  • Assume the owners breached their DOC by not providing warning sign and put in a higher fence. What defence would be available to the Homer and Marge (as owners of house).


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