The Supreme Court of Queensland in a recent decision delivered on 9 March 2016 held that there is no requirement under the Civil Proceedings Act 2011 (Qld)[1] and under the common law for a dependency only for administration or management fees where the dependent is under a legal disability due to age.

THE DECISION

The decision of Maggs v RACQ Insurance Limited [2016] QSC 41, heard by Justice Boddice within the Queensland Supreme Court was as a result of the Applicant, an infant born 4 September 2011, applying for orders sanctioning the terms of the settlement of her claim for damages sustained as a result of the death of her parents in a motor vehicle accident on 8 December 2012.

It remained in issue whether the Applicant was entitled to receive as part of any damages award, a component by way of fund management fees.

Justice Boddice considered s 7 of the CPA which provided:-

“(2) A court must give the same effect as it did immediately before the commencement of this section:-

  1. To all equitable estates, titles, rights, remedies, defences and counter claims, and all equitable duties and liabilities; and
  2. Subject to the matters mentioned in paragraph (a), to all legal claims and demands and all estates, titles, rights, duties, obligations and liabilities existing under the common law or under any custom or created under any statute.”

Upon considering such common law iterations of claims for dependency, (or, as they then were, claims brought under a “Lord Campbell’s” action, Justice Boddice held:-

  1. Recoverable damages under a dependency claim include both pecuniary loss of dependency, which is concerned with the loss of notional income of a deceased, and non-pecuniary loss of dependency being a loss of the deceased’s services;
  2. Any other head of damage are not claims recoverable for damages under common law per an action under Lord Campbell’s Act.[2]
  3. There were no explanatory notes and the second reading speech within the CPA did not reveal any intention to change the types of damages properly recoverable;
  4. The CPA created a statutory entitlement to damages in relation to losses suffered by a dependent child as a consequence of the wrongful death of the parent.  That entitlement limited the damages which were recoverable and there was no basis to extend those recoverable damages outside the pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages not resulting from the death that arose post the assessment of those damages.[3]

WHAT DOES THIS DECISION MEAN?

This decision has wide-ranging ramifications concerning the overall assessment of quantum in infant dependency matters.  The Supreme Court has held here that there is no longer an obligation to meet any fund management or administration expenses arising as a result of the death of the dependents’ relatives.

It is more likely than not that this matter will be escalated to the Court of Appeal of Queensland for further consideration.  Following that, there may be some statutory amendments regarding the CPA in order to account for this decision.