The world’s Supreme Courts were busy in October 2009, and a summary of the main cases heard in each of them appears below.


Sydney Water Corporation v Turano [2009] HCA 42 (13 October 2009) – The Court had to consider the issue of forseeability in tort. The appellants had installed of a water main some 20 years ago which affected the root system of tree on the side of a road near where the water main was laid. The tree then fell on a passing vehicle during a storm, causing death and injury to the respondents. The Court held that injury to road users as the result of the tree’s eventual collapse was not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of laying the water main.

Jeffery & Katauskas Pty Limited v SST Consulting Pty Ltd; Jeffery & Katauskas Pty Limited v Rickard Constructions Pty Limited [2009] HCA 43 (13 October 2009) – In both appeals the Court was asked to consider a situation where a non-party, for a contingency fee, funded an impecunious corporate plaintiff without providing the plaintiff with an indemnity against adverse costs orders. The Court held that it could not make a costs order against a non-party unless using such a non-party was an abuse of process. In these cases, it was not.

Bofinger v Kingsway Group Limited [2009] HCA 44 (13 October 2009) – The Court considered the right of subrogation to securities. 

John Holland Pty Ltd v Victorian Workcover Authority [2009] HCA 45 (13 October 2009) and John Holland Pty Ltd v Inspector Nathan Hamilton [2009] HCA 46 (13 October 2009) – In both appeals the Court considered inconsistencies between Commonwealth and State laws.

Most recently the Court heard the case of Quebec (Revenue) v Caisse populaire Desjardins de Montmagny, 2009 SCC 49 (30 October 2009) regarding the collection of taxes under Quebec law and the priority of the tax authorities above unsecured creditors upon bankruptcy.
Also on the subject of money owed on insolvency, the court allowed an appeal against the Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Galambos v Perez 2009 SCC 48 (23 October 2009). The Court restored the trial judge’s judgment and held that no fiduciary duty existed between the founder of a law firm and an employee of that firm where the employee had provided the firm with unsolicited and voluntary cash advances while it was experiencing financial difficulties. Therefore the employer was a creditor and nothing more; no fiduciary duty had been breached and no damages were owed.
Nguyen v Quebec (Education, Recreation and Sports), 2009 SCC 47(22 October 2009) – The Court considered amendments to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Canada (Justice) v Fischbacher, 2009 SCC 46 (16 October 2009) – This case considered the issue of double criminality in a judicial review application against the Canadian Minister of Justice’s authorisation of a US extradition order.
R v Last, 2009 SCC 45 (15 October 2009) – The appellant was the accused charged in one indictment with counts related to two sexual assaults committed at different times against different complainants and was appealing for the counts to be separated. The Court allowed the appeal, finding that the risk of prejudice to the accused outweighed any benefits to the administration of justice and therefore the counts should be tried separately.
Two cases were heard relating to the authorisation of class actions against municipal by-laws, which essentially denied the appellants any authorisation to institute these class actions (see Marcotte v Longueuil (City), 2009 SCC 43 (8 October 2009) and Breslaw v Montreal (City), 2009 SCC 44 (8 October 2009)).
Hong Kong
David John Kennedy v Kelly Cheng and another – [2009] HKCFA 93; FACV000030/2008 (20 October 2009) – The Court allowed an appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal. Accordingly, the Court held that a liquidator was free to disclose to the police transcripts of private examinations conducted pursuant to s.221 of the Companies Ordinance, Cap.32 without the court’s leave and therefore such disclosure was not a contempt of court.
Leung Ka Lau and others v The Hospital Authority – [2009] HKCFA 91; FACV000022/2008 (20 October 2009) – The Court considered the extent to which doctors employed by the Hospital Authority are entitled to compensation as a result of being assigned on-call duties beyond their normal hours of work. The Court dismissed most of the doctor’s appeal, including the dismissal of the appellant’s overtime and additional overtime claim.
Akai Holdings Ltd (In Compulsory Liquidation) v Ernst & Young (a Hong Kong firm) – [2009] HKCFA 97; FACV000010/2009 (9 October 2009) – The Court considered the jurisdiction of Hong Kong Courts to make a security for costs order against a company that had not been incorporated in Hong Kong.
Sun Honest Development Ltd v Appeal Tribunal (Buildings) – [2009] HKCFA 95; FACV000002/2009 (30 October 2009) – The Court considered, firstly, the Building Authority’s power to reject the appellants’ development plans on the ground that it would exacerbate road traffic and, secondly, whether the principle of the lost modern grant applied to rights of way under Hong Kong law.
Carmody v Minister for Justice Equality and Law Reform & ors [2009] IESC71 (23 October 2009) – The Court considered the right of a person charged with a criminal offence other than murder to have the right, under legal aid, to both a solicitor and counsel.
C.D. v Director of Public Prosecutions [2009] IESC70 (23 October 2009) – the Court dismissed an appeal against the High Court’s judgment refusing to make an order restraining the prosecution of the appellant for a sexual assault charge due to missing photographic evidence that the appellant argued was relevant to the determination of his guilt or innocence.
In the matter of Vantive Holdings & ors and in the matter of the Companies Acts 1963 – 2006 [2009] IESC69 (14 October 2009) – The Court allowed an appeal against the High Court’s judgment regarding the right for a company to petition for the appointment of an examiner pursuant to section 2 of the Companies (Amendment) Acts 1990 as amended.
New Zealand
Ports of Auckland Ltd v Southpac Trucks Ltd [2009] NZSC 112 (30 October 2009) – The Court considered the definition of “carrier” and the limitation of their liability pursuant to the Carriage of Goods Act 1979.
Leroy John Barr v New Zealand Police [2009] NZSC 109 (21 October 2009) – The Court considered the jurisdiction of the District Court to order the appellant to pay medical expenses incurred in a blood test taken to gauge the appellant’s blood alcohol level, particularly considering the distinction between the fee of the doctor who drew the blood and the analyst who analysed the blood.
South Africa
Edcon v Pillemer (191/2009) [2009] (5 October 2009) – The Court discussed the relationship of trust between an employer and an employee and how the third respondent’s actions did not, in this case, form grounds for dismissal.
A fresh session of the US Supreme Court opened on Monday 5 October 2009 with the new addition of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor replaces Justice David Souter and is the first Hispanic to serve on the US Supreme Court.
One judgment has so far been delivered in this new term, which was in the case of Corcoran v Levenhagen (08-10495) (20 October 2009). The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The judgment of the Court of Appeals had reversed a decision of the District Court to grant relief to the appellant from his death sentence on the grounds that the sentence had been granted in violation of the Sixth Amendment (which grants citizens the right to a fair trial). Although the appellant had appealed to the District Court on four additional grounds, the Court of Appeals did not consider these. The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals had erred in disposing of these other grounds without any explanation and ordered that the case be remanded for further proceedings.
There are some other interesting Supreme Court decisions to look forward to from cases that were heard this month. On the first day of the new term Maryland v. Shatzer (08-680) came before the Court. This decision is likely to affect the issue of police interrogations once a defendant has requested counsel. Of US constitutional significance is Salazar v Buono (08-472), concerning a Christian cross erected in federation-owned land in alleged violation of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the federal government from endorsing any particular religious beliefs.