Thursday, April 3, 2014

This week in the High Court of Australia

This week the High Court is hearing argument in four cases.
On Tuesday, 1 April 2014 the Court heard argument in ADCO Constructions Pty Ltd v Goudappel, an appeal from the NSW Court of Appeal in relation to the transitional operation of certain amendments to the Workers Compensation Act 1987.  Its general importance lies in whatever it might say about the correct approach to the construction of provisions in an Act authorizing the making of regulations that have a transitional operation and which themselves amend the operation of the Act.
On Wednesday, 2 April 2014 the Court heard argument in Sidhu v Van Dyke.  In this case Van Dyke claimed that Sidhu, with whom she was in a romantic and sexual relationship over several years, made clear and unambiguous promises to her on several occasions that a property known as Oaks Cottage was her home and that he would transfer it to her (or procure its transfer to her). She also claimed that she acted reasonably in reliance on those promises to her detriment, including by performing certain tasks for the benefit of Sidhu and by remaining in part-time employment. Van Dyke commenced proceedings claiming an order that Oaks Cottage be transferred to her, or a declaration recognising her interest in Oaks Cottage by way of constructive trust or charge, or an order for the payment of equitable compensation to her. The primary judge held that the effect of the evidence given by Van Dyke during cross-examination was that it was entirely possible that Van Dyke would have remained living on the property, carrying out tasks on the property (even if not to the extent of the work she in fact carried out) and working part-time, whether or not the promises had been made. According to the primary judge, that made it impossible to find that she was acting in reliance on the promises to her detriment. The NSW Court of Appeal, applying a number of English decisions, held that there was a presumption of reliance which had not been displaced by Van Dyke’s evidence, and that it was not necessary for the plaintiff to prove that “but for” the promises she would not have acted in the way she did; it was sufficient that it was a cause, even if not the sole cause. In addition, the Court of Appeal held that the measure of compensation was not the detriment suffered by Van Dyke, rather it was the value of the unfulfilled promises.  
Today the Court will hear argument in Lee v The Queen.  The appellants in this appeal were the unsuccessful appellants in Lee v The Queen, in which the High Court upheld orders made in favour of the NSW Crime Commission that the appellants be compulsorily examined under the Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990, even though the subject matter of the examinations overlapped with the subject matter of the criminal proceedings.  In this latest appeal, the Lees challenge the dismissal of their appeals against conviction by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal.  The main ground of general importance is the question of whether or not there had been a miscarriage of justice because a transcript of the evidence given before the Crime Commission had been released, unlawfully, to the DPP prior to the trial.

Finally, tomorrow the Court will hear argument in MacarthurCook Fund Management Ltd v TFML Ltd.  This case raises a short but very important question of statutory construction, namely, whether the procedures set out in Part 5C.6 of the Corporations Act 2001 apply to all methods by which a member of a registered managed investment scheme ceases to be a member, or whether it only applies where the member voluntarily seeks the return of that member’s contribution to the scheme.