LAW OF TORTS WEEKEND LECTURE 2A Lecturer: Greg YoungContact: firstname.lastname@example.org NEGLIGENCE Duty of care & Breach: Civil Liability Act Damage PURE ECONOMIC LOSS VICARIOUS/CONCURRENT LIABILITY
IMPACT OF THE CIVIL LIABILITY ACT ON THE DUTY OF CARE • The Civil Liability Act 2002 together with the Civil Liability Amendment (Personal Responsibility) Act 2002 govern the law of negligence in NSW. • The Civil Liability Act 2002 was enacted 28th May 2002 and received assent on 18 June 2002 • Rationale behind the legislation: • to limit the quantum of damages for personal injury and death in public liability instances; resultantly lowering insurance premiums. • to discourage ‘over litigation’, by the imposition of restrictions and obligations and responsibilities upon plaintiffs and counsel
Torts Law Reform: Stage 1 • The 1st stage aimed both at the number of claims as well as at the cost of claims • restriction of legal advertising, minimising the promotion of claims and a restriction on the amount recoverable for legal costs • capping damages, applying a higher discount rate to the final lump sum figure, and the abolition of punitive damages
Torts Law Reform: Stage 2 • The 2nd Stage: reforms include a range of broad-based tort reform measures, including a fundamental re-assessment of the law of negligence • addressing the concept of reasonable foreseeability in the law of negligence; • protection of good samaritans who assist in emergencies; • waivers for risky activities; • statutory immunity for local government; public authorities which fail to exercise their powers will not breach any duty; • changing the test for professional negligence to one of 'peer acceptance'; • abolishing reliance by plaintiffs on their own intoxication; preventing people from making claims where they were injured in the course of committing a crime; • provide a wider range of options for damages; creating a presumption in favour of structured settlements.
Claims excluded from operation of the Civil Liability Act: s3B(1) • a) an intentional act that is done with intent to cause injury or death or that is sexual assault or other sexual misconduct. Note Part 7 does apply to intentional torts done with intent to injure. • (b) dust diseases under the Dust Diseases Tribunal Act 1989 • (c) personal injury damages where the injury or death concerned resulted from smoking or other use of tobacco products • (d) actions governed by Part 6 of the Motor Accidents Act 1988 and Chapter 5 of the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999 except the provisions that subsection (2) provides apply to motor accidents • (e) Workers Compensation Act 1987, Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services) Act 1987, Workers Compensation (Dust Diseases) 1942, Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996 or Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 or a benefit payable under the Sporting Injuries Insurance Act 1978
THE CIVIL LIABILITY AMENDMENT (PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY) ACT • Part 1A Division incorporates statutory reform to the law of negligence in Sections 5A to 5T • Commenced 6/12/02, except Section 5N applies to breaches of warranties which occur after 10/1/03 • 5A scope of application • The part applies to any claims in negligence regardless of whether the claim is brought in tort, contract, under statute or otherwise
Duty of Care • S 5B:(1) A person is not negligent in failing to take precautions against a risk of harm unless: • (a) the risk was foreseeable (that is, it is a risk of which the person knew or ought to have known), and • (b) the risk was notinsignificant, and • (c) in the circumstances, a reasonable person in the person’s position would have taken those precautions. • (2) In determining whether a reasonable person would have taken precautions against a risk of harm, the court is to consider the following (amongst other relevant things): • (a) the probability that the harm would occur if care were not taken, • (b) the likely seriousness of the harm, • (c) the burden of taking precautions to avoid the risk of harm, • (d) the social utility of the activity that creates the risk of harm.
Duty of Care – commentary • Section 5B(1) provides a person is not negligent unless… (b) the risk was not insignificant. • Wyong Shire Council v Shirt (1980) 146 CLR 40: risk must be “real” in the sense that a reasonable person would not “brush it aside as far-fetched or fanciful.” • It is unclear whether “not insignificant” in Section 5B(1)(b) is more restrictive than “not far-fetched or fanciful” in Wyong Shire Council v Shirt
Duty of Care – s.5B(1) & (2) • Waverley Council v Ferreira  NSWCA 418 • Facts – 15 December 2000 12 yr old boy died when he fell to the ground through a skylight in the roof of a building known as the Community Centre in Kimberley Park - The boy was throwing a soft dart with a friend and mistakenly threw it onto the roof. He gained access to the roof by climbing a mesh fence attached to the building and undergrowth. The fence and undergrowth made it relatively easy for children to climb onto the roof. The fence had no utilitarian purpose as it had a gate without a lock.
s.5B(1)(a) - Waverley Council v Ferreira • Ipp JA (Spigelman CJ & Tobias JA agreeing) • 34 The initial element to be determined under s5B(1) is whether the risk was foreseeable. As s5B(1)(a) makes plain, that involves inquiring whether the risk in question is one of which the defendant knew or ought to have known. The relevant risk in relation to the removal of the fence and undergrowth was the risk that children might use the fence and undergrowth to facilitate their access to the roof and, when on the roof, might fall to the ground. • 35 There can be no doubt that the Council knew or ought to have known that children frequently climbed on to the roof of the Community Centre. Children playing at the park were often seen on the roof. Mr Ferreira said that he saw children on the roof “sometimes twice a week”. Martin’s friend, Dima, said that on a few occasions he himself had climbed onto the roof. Some of Dima’s friends had also climbed on to the roof as had other children. A witness testified that “maybe weekly you could see at least one person up there”.
s.5B(1)(a) - Waverley Council v Ferreira • Ipp JA (Spigelman CJ & Tobias JA agreeing) 39 It was reasonably foreseeable that, once on the roof, a boy might be attracted to the skylight and stand on it or otherwise in some way rest his weight upon it. • 41 ... Irrespective of whether the Council knew or ought to have known of the condition of the skylight it was reasonably foreseeable to the Council that a child who climbed on to the roof might come to serious harm by falling to the ground. Such a fall might be caused by an infinite variety of circumstances, impossible to identify in advance.
s.5B(1)(a) - Waverley Council v Ferreira • Ipp JA (Spigelman CJ & Tobias JA agreeing) • 43 In my opinion, the relevant risk of injury was that a child such as Martin might fall to the ground once he had climbed on to the roof. In my opinion, that was a foreseeable risk in terms of s 5B(1)(a). It was a risk of which the Council knew or ought to have known. It is immaterial that the Council might not have been able to foresee the precise mechanism that caused Martin to fall.
Duty of Care 5C Other principles In proceedings relating to liability for negligence: • the burden of taking precautions to avoid a risk of harm includes the burden of taking precautions to avoid similar risks of harm for which the person may be responsible , and • the fact that a risk of harm could have been avoided by doing something in a different way does not of itself give rise to or affect liability for the way in which the thing was done, and • the subsequent taking of action that would (had the action been taken earlier) have avoided a risk of harm does not of itself give rise to or affect liability in respect of the risk and does not of itself constitute an admission of liability in connection with the risk.
Assumption of risk Injured persons presumed to be aware of obvious risks 5G Injured persons presumed to be aware of obvious risks • In determining liability for negligence, a person who suffers harm is presumed to have been aware of the risk of harm if it was an obviousrisk, unless the person proves on the balance of probabilities that he or she was not aware of the risk. • For the purposes of this section, a person is aware of a risk if the person is aware of the type or kind of risk, even if the person is not aware of the precise nature, extent or manner of occurrence of the risk.
s5G – Obvious Risk • Falvo v Australian Oztag Sports Association & Anor  NSWCA 17 (2 March 2006) • The plaintiff injured his knee while playing Oztag (touch football) on the defendant council's field. The field had several sandy patches where the council had ‘topped up' wear to the grass and the injury was suffered when the plaintiff stepped in one of these. Ipp JA, in his leading judgment, upheld the trial judge's finding that the field was in a fit condition and that the defendant was not liable. He found that the risk from the condition of the field was one substantially similar to many other fields used for amateur sport, and that the risk was obvious to all.
s5G – Obvious Risk • Eutick v City of Canada Bay Council  NSWCA 30 (3 March 2006) • The plaintiff was a pedestrian who tripped over the ridge of a gully or depression in a roadway. In the leading judgment, Campbell AJA held that the risk was ‘very obvious', as part of the ‘normal incident[s] of life', and that it did not pose a significant risk. This was held to be the case in spite of the fact of the injury and the amount of traffic on the roadway which was said to have added to the risk. His Honour held the defendant council was entitled, having regard to ‘the obviousness of the risk, and the limited nature of the hazard posed by it, to expect that the exercise of reasonable care for their own safety by pedestrians would obviate the need for any further response' to the risk. • His Honour added that s5(1)(b) CLA put the onus of proving that ‘the risk was not insignificant' on the plaintiff, and that she had not discharged this.
Assumption of risk 5H No proactive duty to warn of obvious risk • A person ( "the defendant" ) does not owe a duty of care to another person ( "the plaintiff" ) to warn of an obvious risk to the plaintiff. • This section does notapply if: (a) the plaintiff has requested advice or information about the risk from the defendant, or (b) the defendant is required by a written law to warn the plaintiff of the risk, or (c) the defendant is a professional and the risk is a risk of the death of or personal injury to the plaintiff from the provision of a professional service by the defendant. (3) Subsection (2) does not give rise to a presumption of a duty to warn of a risk in the circumstances referred to in that subsection.
Assumption of risk 5I No liability for materialisation of inherent risk • A person is not liable in negligence for harm suffered by another person as a result of the materialisation of an inherent risk. • An "inherent risk" is a risk of something occurring that cannot be avoided by the exercise of reasonable care and skill. • This section does not operate to exclude liability in connection with a duty to warn of a risk.
s5I – Inherent Risk • Lormaine Pty Ltd v Xuereb  NSWCA 200 • The NSW Court of Appeal has held that a shipowner was liable for a woman's injuries when she was washed from the bow by a ‘rogue wave'. One of the defences raised by the shipowner was that the waves were an inherent and obvious risk of dolphin-watching. However, the shipowner was unable to prove that the risk was obvious because the brochure had given the impression of a gentle cruise. Also, the ship's presence in a known ‘wave zone' meant that the risk was avoidable, not inherent. The woman's damages were reduced, however, because the trial judge had not considered pre-existing conditions and the plaintiff had failed to alleviate the symptoms by losing weight.
Recreational activities 5M No duty of care for recreational activity where risk warning • A person ( "the defendant" ) does not owe a duty of care to another person who engages in a recreational activity ( "the plaintiff" ) to take care in respect of a risk of the activity if the risk was the subject of a risk warning to the plaintiff. • If the plaintiff is an “incapable person”, the defendant may rely on a risk warning only if: (a) the incapable person was under the control of or accompanied by another person (who is not an incapable person and not the defendant) and the risk was the subject of a risk warning to that other person, or (b) the risk was the subject of a risk warning to a parent of the incapable person (whether or not the incapable person was under the control of or accompanied by the parent).
Recreational activities 5M No duty of care for recreational activity where risk warning • The fact that a risk is the subject of a risk warning does not of itself mean: (a) that the risk is not an obvious or inherent risk of an activity, or (b) that a person who gives the risk warning owes a duty of care to a person who engages in an activity to take precautions to avoid the risk of harm from the activity.
Recreational activities 5N Waiver of contractual duty of care for recreational activities • Despite any other written or unwritten law, a term of a contract for the supply of recreation services may exclude, restrict or modify any liability to which this Division applies that results from breach of an express or implied warranty that the services will be rendered with reasonable care and skill. • Nothing in the written law of New South Wales renders such a term of a contract void or unenforceable or authorises any court to refuse to enforce the term, to declare the term void or to vary the term.
Recreational activities 5L No liability for harm suffered from obvious risks of dangerous recreational activities (1) A person ( "the defendant" ) is not liable in negligence for harm suffered by another person ( "the plaintiff" ) as a result of the materialisation of an obvious risk of a dangerous recreational activity engaged in by the plaintiff. (2) This section applies whether or not the plaintiff was aware of the risk.
s5L – Dangerous Recreational Activities • Fallas v Mourlas  NSWCA 32 (16 March 2006) • The plaintiff was holding a spotlight from a vehicle, while others shot the kangaroos. He was accidentally shot by the defendant when the defendant tried to unjam his weapon, despite having given the plaintiff assurances that the weapon was not loaded. The defendant argued it was an obvious risk in the course of a dangerous recreational activity (s5L CLA). • The court held unanimously (Ipp JA, Tobias JA and Basten JA) that spotlighting was a ‘dangerous recreational activity'. Ipp JA and Tobias JA held that for the risk to be ‘significant' (s5K) it ‘must have been a somewhere between a trivial risk and a risk likely to materialise'. Ipp JA held that in determining whether a recreational activity was dangerous involved particularising and segmenting the activity where necessary. • The court held by majority (Ipp JA, Basten JA) that the risk that eventuated was not an ‘obvious risk' (s5F) in the course of a dangerous recreational activity because of the defendant's assurances that the gun was not loaded. It therefore ruled in favour of the plaintiff.
Recreational Activities – Trade Practices Act • Recreational Activities – Sections 5J to N - The NSW Govt could not exclude the operation of the Trade Practices Act 1974, although the Federal Govt has done so by passing The Trade Practices Amendment (Liability for Recreational Services) Act 2002 proclaimed on 19/12/02
Professional negligence Sections 5O & 5P • “Peer professional opinion” (or Bolam) test for determining the appropriate standard of care • Rogers v Whitaker (1992) 175 CLR 479 • Cases involving a risk of injury or death arising from a professional service, community standards and other considerations may be applied by the court in determining the appropriate standard of care to be exercised.
Professional negligence 5O Standard of care for professionals • A person practising a profession ( "a professional" ) does not incur a liability in negligence arising from the provision of a professional service if it is established that the professional acted in a manner that (at the time the service was provided) was widely accepted in Australia by peer professional opinion as competent professional practice. • However, peer professional opinion cannot be relied on for the purposes of this section if the court considers that the opinion is irrational
Mental harm 27 Definitions In this Part: "consequential mental harm" means mental harm that is a consequence of a personal injury of any other kind. "mental harm" means impairment of a person’s mental condition. "negligence" means failure to exercise reasonable care and skill. "personal injury" includes: • pre-natal injury, • impairment of a person’s physical or mental condition, and • disease. "pure mental harm" means mental harm other than consequential mental harm.
Mental harm • 30 Limitation on recovery for pure mental harm arising from shock (1) This section applies to the liability of a person ("the defendant”) for pure mental harm to a person ("the plaintiff") arising wholly or partly from mental or nervous shock in connection with another person ("the victim") being killed, injured or put in peril by the act or omission of the defendant. (2) The plaintiff is not entitled to recover damages for pure mental harm unless: • the plaintiff witnessed, at the scene, the victim being killed, injured or put in peril, or • the plaintiff is a close member of the family of the victim. (eg Waverley Council v Ferreira  NSWCA 418)
Mental harm 32 Mental harm—duty of care • A person ("the defendant") does not owe a duty of care to another person ("the plaintiff") to take care not to cause the plaintiff mental harm unless the defendant ought to have foreseen that a person of normal fortitude might, in the circumstances of the case, suffer a recognised psychiatric illness if reasonable care were not taken. Codifies the common law test for foreseeability of risk of mental harm in Tame v NSW; Annetts v Australian Stations Pty Ltd  HCA 35
Mental harm 33 Liability for economic loss for consequential mental harm A court cannot make an award of damages for economic loss for consequential mental harm resulting from negligence unless the harm consists of a recognised psychiatric illness.
Part 1A Duty of Care – more commentary • Section 5B(1) provides a person is not negligent unless… (b) the risk was not insignificant. • Wyong Shire Council v Shirt (1980) 146 CLR 40: risk must be “real” in the sense that a reasonable person would not “brush it aside as far-fetched or fanciful.” • Is “not insignificant” in Section 5B(1)(b) more restrictive than “not far-fetched or fanciful” in Wyong Shire Council v Shirt ?
Part 1A Duty of Care – more commentary • Recreational Activities – Sections 5J to N - The NSW Govt could not exclude the operation of the Trade Practices Act 1974, although the Federal Govt has done so by passing The Trade Practices Amendment (Liability for Recreational Services) Act 2002 proclaimed on 19/12/02
Part 1A Duty of Care – more commentary • Recreational Activities – Sections 5J to N • Issues of concern: Is the commercial incentive for the safe provision of recreational & commercial activities gone? What real bargaining power do consumers have in negotiating a contractual waiver? Definition of recreational activity is broad and ambiguous.
Part 5 Liability of Public & Other Authorities • Proclaimed on 6/12/02: Sections 40 to 46 • Provides specific additional protection for public authorities including: • the Crown • Government departments • Local councils • Other prescribed bodies
Part 5 Liability of Public & Other Authorities • Section 42sets out the principles to apply in determining whether a public or other authority has a duty of care or has breached a duty of care including: • the functions required to be exercised by the authority are limited by the financial and other resources that are reasonably available to the authority for the purpose of exercising those functions, • the general allocation of those resources by the authority is not open to challenge, • the functions required to be exercised by the authority are to be determined by reference to the broad range of its activities (and not merely by reference to the matter to which the proceedings relate), • the authority may rely on evidence of its compliance with the general procedures and applicable standards for the exercise of its functions as evidence of the proper exercise of its functions in the matter to which the proceedings relate.
Part 5 Liability of Public & Other Authorities • Section 43: an act or omission by an authority does not constitute a breach of a statutory duty, unless the act or omission so was unreasonable in the circumstances that no authority having the functions in question could properly consider the act or omission to be a reasonable exercise of it function.
Part 5 Liability of Public & Other Authorities • Section 44: Removes the liability of public authorities for failure to exercise a regulatory function if the authority could not have been compelled to exercise the function under proceedings instituted by the Plaintiff. • Section 45: Restores the non-feasance protection for highway authorities taken away by the High Court in Brodie v Singleton Shire Council Council; Ghantous v Hawkesbury City Council (2001) 206 CLR 512
S45 – Hwy Immunity • Porter v. Lachlan Shire Council  NSWCA 126 • The appellant suffered a fractured right ankle when he accidentally put his foot into a hole in the nature strip between the made footpath and the gutter of a street in Condobolin. • The primary judge held that, but for s45 of the Civil Liability Act 2002, he would have found the Council liable on the ground that it should have known about the hole; but he was not satisfied that the Council had actual knowledge of it.
s45 - Porter v. Lachlan Shire Council • 45 Special non-feasance protection for roads authorities(1) A roads authority is not liable in proceedings for civil liability to which this Part applies for harm arising from a failure of the authority to carry out road work, or to consider carrying out road work, unless at the time of the alleged failure the authority had actual knowledge of the particular risk the materialisation of which resulted in the harm.... • (3) In this section: carry out road work means carry out any activity in connection with the construction, erection, installation, maintenance, inspection, repair, removal or replacement of a road work within the meaning of the Roads Act 1993.roads authority has the same meaning as in the Roads Act 1993.
s45 - Porter v. Lachlan Shire Council • Hodgson JA (Beazley JA & Giles JA agreeing) • 34 In my opinion, this case does come within s45, on either of two bases. 35 First, where that part of a road used for pedestrian purposes has been altered by the installation of a footpath and a gutter, leaving what may be called a nature strip in between, it is in my opinion an unduly narrow view of what constitutes a road work to say that, while the made footpath is a road work and the gutter is a road work, the nature strip between them is neither a road work nor part of a road work. In my opinion the better view is that the whole of the area for pedestrian purposes, comprising the made footpath, the nature strip and the gutter, comprises a road work.
s45 - Porter v. Lachlan Shire Council • Hodgson JA (Beazley JA & Giles JA agreeing) • 36 Second, in any event, where there is a hole in that part of a road which is a nature strip within the area used for pedestrian purposes, it would be road work to fill and make good that hole. That view is not in my opinion precluded by the use of the words “constructed” and “installed” in the definition of road work in the Roads Act, which, unlike the relevant definition in s45 of the Civil Liability Act, is an inclusive definition and not an exhaustive definition. Once it is accepted that to fill and make good the hole would be road work, then the question would arise whether failure to do this would be failure to “carry out any activity in connection with the construction, erection, installation, maintenance, repair or replacement of a road work” within s45(3). In my opinion, it would be: although the words “construction” and “installation”, and the indefinite article “a” in front of “road work”, could be taken as inapt for the filling and making good of a hole, on balance I think it would be too narrow an approach to hold that the words do not extend to such activity.
s45 - Porter v. Lachlan Shire Council • Hodgson JA (Beazley JA & Giles JA agreeing) • 37 On either basis, s45 applies: on the first basis, the allegation would be that the respondent failed to maintain a road work, and on the second basis, it would be that the respondent failed to construct or install a road work.
s.45 Actual Knowledge:North Sydney Council –v- Roman  NSWCA 27 • Ms Roman was injured at night when she fell in a pothole half a metre wide and about four to five inches deep in Princes Street, McMahon’s Point on 16 October 2001. She brought proceedings against the Council, alleging that it had been negligent in failing to maintain the road by repairing the pothole. The Council defended the proceedings on the basis that it did not have actual knowledge of the pothole as required by s.45 of the CLA. The evidence established that Council street sweepers regularly swept the gutters in Princes Street in the vicinity of the subject hole. The street sweepers were instructed as part of their induction to identify hazards which needed attention and report them to their supervisor. Ms Roman argued at trial that the street sweepers’ actual knowledge of the pothole could be inferred from the regularity of those duties and from their obligation to identify hazards which needed attention. She also argued that their knowledge was attributable to the Council.
s.45 North Sydney Council –v- Roman • The appellant did not call a street sweeper. It did call evidence from their supervisor and from people responsible for repairing potholes. All said they had not known of the pothole. They said that if they had they would have regarded it as a hazard. By the time of the trial the pothole had been repaired. None of the appellant’s witnesses was aware of how it had come to be repaired, nor did the appellant produce any records relating to its repair. The primary judge inferred the street sweepers had actual knowledge of the pothole and that, for the purposes of s.45, their knowledge could be attributed to the appellant. She also found the appellant had breached its duty of care by leaving the pothole in a place where a person getting into or out of a car might reasonably be expected to step. She awarded the respondent $475,485 damages.
s.45 North Sydney Council –v- Roman • On appeal the appellant submitted that to find “actual knowledge” for the purpose of s.45 it was necessary that there be a connection between the person with actual knowledge of the particular risk and the person able to, but who failed to, carry out the roadwork which would have avoided the harm which materialised. It argued that even if it was assumed a street sweeper had actual knowledge of the pothole, such knowledge was not sufficient because street sweepers did not carry out repairs.
s.45 North Sydney Council-v- Roman • Held, allowing the appeal, per Basten JA (Bryson JA agreeing): • 1. For the purposes of s.45 actual knowledge must be found in the mind of an officer within the council having delegated (or statutory) authority to carry out the necessary repairs. • 2. The evidence demonstrated that no Council officer at a decision-making level had “actual knowledge” of the particular pothole and therefore the appellant did not have such knowledge. Accordingly, the exception to s.45 was not engaged and the statutory immunity prevailed. Per McColl JA (dissenting)
Parts 8 & 9 Good Samaritans & Volunteers • Proclaimed on 6/12/02: Sections 55 to 66 • Parts 8 & 9 operate to protect Good Samaritans and volunteers. • Section 58: no protection if the Good Samaritan is under the influence of alcohol, impersonating a police officer or falsely representing that they have skills or expertise in providing emergency assistance.
Parts 8 & 9 Good Samaritans & Volunteers • Section 60: Defines community work to mean work that is not for private financial gain and that is done for a charitable, benevolent, philanthropic, sporting, educational or cultural purpose. It excludes community service orders imposed by a court. • Section 61: No civil liability for a volunteer doing community work but does not extend to criminal acts, acts whilst intoxicated, a volunteer failing to exercise reasonable care and skill, actions outside the scope of the charitable organisation or contrary to instructions, where the volunteer is required by State law to be insured or motor vehicle accidents.
Breach of Duty – General Principles • Wyong Shire Council v Shirt (1980) 146 CLR 40 per Mason J: “In deciding whether there has been a breach of the duty of care the tribunal of fact must first ask itself whether a reasonable man in the defendant’s position would have foreseen that his conduct involved a risk of injury to the plaintiff… If the answer is in the affirmative, it is then for the tribunal of fact to determine what a reasonable man would do… The perception of the reasonable man’s response calls for a consideration of the magnitude of the risk and the degree of the probability of its occurrence, along with the expense, difficulty and inconvenience of taking alleviating action and any other conflicting responsibilities which the defendant may have.”