- Whether interest is payable on an award of damages for non-economic loss.
Mr Starr (the plaintiff) claimed against his employer (Greenfreight), for negligence, pursuant to s 134AB of the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (Vic) (the Accident Act). The plaintiff claimed only general damages (pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of amenity).
The Accident Act, at s 134(34), and the Transport Accident Act 1986 (Vic), s 93(15), contain prohibitions on awarding interest on damages (the prohibition). In the context of Victorian Supreme Court proceedings, this creates tension with s 60(1) of the Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic), which provides for the payment of interest on awards of damages. The proper construction of the prohibition has been the subject of extensive consideration by the judiciary. Eccles v Taylor  2 VR 482 (Eccles) and Williams v Oataway  VSCA 137 (Oataway) are the two principal authorities in relation to the construction of these provisions. Eccles involved an award of damages under the Accident Act, including general damages. Oataway involved an award of special damages under the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic).
The Decision at Trial
The trial judge found that the plaintiff was not entitled to interest on general damages awarded at trial. In reaching this decision the court followed Eccles. The trial judge further noted that parliament has enacted provisions virtually identical to the prohibition at s 134(34) of the Accident Act on three occasions since the decision in Eccles and therefore it was reasonable to assume that parliament had adopted the construction of the prohibition set out in Eccles. The plaintiff appealed.
The Decision on Appeal
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, finding that the decision in Oataway was consistent with the decision in Eccles on all but one point. The point of difference, it found, related to the period of the prohibition upon the award of interest; a matter that was not in issue in the case being considered.
The Court of Appeal found that the decision of Oataway did not overturn or qualify Eccles as authority that the wording of the prohibition in s134 (34) precludes the award of interest on damages for non-economic loss.
There has been speculation that the decision in Oataway may undermine or justify reconsideration of Eccles. In this matter the Court of Appeal found that Eccles continues to stand as precedent for the proposition that the prohibition in s 134(34) precludes the award of interest on damages for non-economic loss.
Glenn Stanley Starr v Greenfreight (Services) Pty Ltd  VSCA 213