We previously reported on the New South Wales Court of Appeal decision in McKenna v Hunter & New England Local Health District; Simon v Hunter & New England Local Health District [2013] NSWCA 476. 

In this case, a psychiatrist and Manning Base Hospital were found liable to the family members of a man murdered by a patient.  The defendants were found to have breached their duty of care by discharging a dangerous patient who had been compulsorily detained under the Mental Health Act 1990 (NSW) into the custody of his friend, whom he later strangled and killed.  The Court of Appeal awarded the victim’s family in excess of $250,000 for psychiatric injury resulting from nervous shock.

On 20 June 2014, the hospital appealed the decision by special leave application to the High Court.  The High Court was asked to consider the statutory defence of competent professional practice under the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) and, further, the inconsistencies between the duties under the Mental Health Act 1990 (NSW) (since repealed) and the common law duty of care.

The High Court granted special leave on the condition that the hospital pay the costs of the appeal and not seek to disturb costs awarded to Mr Rose’s family in the courts below.

To view our previous article, click here.

To view the transcript of proceedings, click here.