High Court revisits Common Law Duty of Care in the Exercise of Statutory Powers

Public and Products Liability

On 12 November 2014, the High Court handed down its decision in Hunter and New England Local District Health v McKenna & Simon [2014] HCA 44, which revisits the circumstances in which a common law duty will exist alongside obligations created by statute.

The case involved tragic circumstances where a man with a history of paranoid schizophrenia killed a friend shortly after being discharged from hospital.  The friend’s family sought damages for psychiatric injuries they suffered on learning of his death from the Authority responsible for the hospital and its staff.

The High Court unanimously held that no relevant duty was owed.  The Court’s decision, together with other recent cases, highlight the difficulties posed when common law duties are alleged against those charged with the exercise of statutory powers and the importance of the compatibility of the alleged common law duty with statutory obligations.

Allison Hunt, Senior Associate, discusses the decision in the link below.

20/11/2014