The plaintiff fell from a ladder in NSW. The ladder had been purchased by the plaintiff from a retailer in Victoria. It had been manufactured in Queensland. The plaintiff sued the manufacturer alleging that the ladder was defective.

The manufacturer pleaded that the claim was subject to Queensland law and that under Queensland law the claim was barred because the limitation period had already expired.

The plaintiff argued before a Supreme Court of Victoria judge that the manufacturer’s wrongdoing occurred in Victoria, the wrong being the supply of the allegedly defective ladder for sale in that State. On the other hand the manufacturer argued that the alleged wrong was the defective design and manufacture of the ladder, which occurred in Queensland.

Looking at the plaintiff’s claim as pleaded, the judge concluded that the substance of the case was a defective product claim. The place of manufacturer of the allegedly defective product was Queensland, and so Queensland law applied, and the claim against the manufacturer was statute‑barred.

McGowan v Hills Limited

Limitation periods are ‘substantive’ law and the law of the place where the tort occurred must be applied. The duration of limitation periods, and the circumstances in which they can be extended, vary widely between States and Territories and can cause problems for plaintiffs.