Provided, that is, the assignee has a ‘genuine commercial interest’ in the benefit of the claim; otherwise, the assignment will be champertous and unenforceable: WorkCover Queensland v AMACA Pty Ltd,  QCA 240. Douglas Rourke worked for AMACA, where he contracted mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos. He subsequently died and his estate assigned his negligence and contractual claims against AMACA to WorkCover Queensland, the government body which oversees workers’ compensation and safety issues in the state. WorkCover was to hold any damages which exceeded the amount it had already paid to Rourke in trust for his estate.
The Queensland Court of Appeal, faced with the question whether the assignment was enforceable, concluded that it was. The old rule at common law was that a cause of action that turns on personal rights cannot be assigned, in order to discourage trafficking in litigation. The modern tendency has been to create exceptions to that rule, and to allow assignments that are made to a party with a genuine or legitimate commercial interest in the claim. As an insurer which fully indemnified its insured, WorkCover certainly had a genuine commercial interest in the Rourke litigation, akin to an insurer’s subrogated claim. There was no suggestion that WorkCover had some improper collateral purpose that amounted to officious (and champertous) intermeddling in another’s litigation. Round-up of Australian, English and Canadian authorities on point.
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