The Supreme Courts of Australia and New Zealand had a busy time in November and December, but no new judgments were handed down in January 2010.  A summary of the highlights from the end of 2009 is below.


C.A.L. No 14 Pty Ltd v Motor Accidents Insurance Board; C.A.L. No 14 Pty Ltd v Scott [2009] HCA 47 (10 November 2009) and Adeels Palace Pty Ltd v Moubarak; Adeels Palace Pty Ltd v Bou Najem [2009] HCA 48 (10 November 2009) These appeals considered the duty of care owed by liquor licensees to, respectively, an intoxicated patron who died in road accident after leaving a hotel, and patrons who were injured when other patrons shot them at a New Year’s Eve function. The appeals by the liquor licensees were allowed in both instances.

International Finance Trust Company Limited v New South Wales Crime Commission [2009] HCA 49 (12 November 2009) The Court considered the judiciary’s powers under section 10 of the Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990 to grant ex parte restraining orders in respect of some or all of the property of a person suspected of having committed a serious offence. The Court ordered that this section be declared invalid.

Zurich Australian Insurance Ltd v Metals & Minerals Insurance Pte Ltd [2009] HCA 50 (2 December 2009) The High Court considered the effect of section 45 of the Insurance Contracts Act 1984, which renders void “other insurance” provisions of general insurance contracts. These provisions purportedly apply when the insured has entered into another contract of insurance in relation to the same risk, and intend to limit or exclude the liability of the insurer to indemnify the insured against loss on this basis.  The Court found that the section does not apply to provisions which purport to exclude / limit liability where the insured is named as an insured person in the other contract but is not a party to it. The Court further found that the section does not render void an entire clause of an insurance contract that includes provisions to which the section does apply and provisions to which it does not apply. The appeal was accordingly dismissed.

ICM Agriculture Pty Ltd v The Commonwealth [2009] HCA 51 (9 December 2009) The High Court considered two issues: the first related to whether the CEO of the National Water Commission was authorised to enter into a funding agreement with the State under the National Water Commission Act 2004 for the purpose of the State acquiring proper on other than fair terms; the second related to the status and rights divested by the plaintiff’s licences under the Water Act 1912 as replaced under the Water Management Act 2000.

Zheng v Cai [2009] HCA 52 (9 December 2009) The Court allowed an appeal by the Applicant, who had been injured in a motor vehicle accident, in respect of the assessment of the economic loss she suffered as a result of the accident. The New South Wales Court of Appeal had held that the damages be decreased by the amount of benevolent payments made by the Applicant’s church to the Applicant following the accident.

Taiapa v The Queen [2009] HCA 53 (16 December 2009) The issue before the court was whether the trial judge had erred in withdrawing the issue of compulsion from the jury’s consideration in a case where the applicant had been convicted of unlawful trafficking in a dangerous drug. The Applicant did not deny that he did the acts but argued that he was not criminally responsible for his conduct since he did the acts to save himself and his family from threatened serious harm. The Court dismissed the appeal on the basis that there were no reasonable grounds for the Applicant’s belief of compulsion.

New Zealand

Peter David Buddle v The Queen [2009] NZSC 117 (26 November 2009) The Supreme Court allowed this appeal and, in so doing, set aside six convictions against the Applicant, who had been convicted in the second trial of these proceedings on counts that a discharged jury from the first trial had been unable to reach a unanimous decision on. 
The Commerce Commission v Carter Holt Harvey Limited [2009] NZSC 120 (27 November 2009) The Court of Appeal had struck out an application by The Commerce Commission for compensation orders under the section 43 of the Fair Trading Act 1986 (the “Act”) on behalf of those who had suffered loss through the conduct of the Respondent. The Respondent had, in contravention of the Act, misrepresented the grading of timber manufactured and supplied by it. The Supreme Court allowed the appeal by The Commerce Commission and ordered that the application to strike out their proceedings be dismissed. 
Aaron Mark Wi v The Queen [2009] NZSC 121 (27 November 2009) The Supreme Court overruled the Court of Appeal holding that, in a criminal trial, evidence that a defendant has no, or no relevant, previous convictions is admissible as “propensity evidence”.   However, the appeal was dismissed because the error would not have affected the result of the case.
 Cashmere Capital v Patrick Carroll and others [2009] NZSC 123 (4 December 2009) The Supreme Court considered the issue of priority between persons with competing interests in an unregistered retirement village.
Christopher Bede Ward v Diane Mary Ward [2009] NZSC 125 (8 December 2009) This appeal concerned the exercise of the Court’s statutory power to vary the terms of pre- and post-nuptial settlements.