Aon Risk Services Australia Limited v Australian National University [2009] HCA 27 | 5 August 2009

ON 5 AUGUST 2009, the High Court of Australia delivered Aon Risk Services Australia Limited v Australian National University [2009] HCA 27 (5 August 2009).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2009/27.html

In Aon Risk Services Australia Limited v Australian National University, the Australian National University on day three of a four week hearing was granted an adjournment to make significant amendments to their statement of claim against their insurance broker. The ACT Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal of the decision except in relation to costs. The High Court of Australia allowed an appeal, setting aside the Court of Appeal’s decision and sending the matter back to the ACT Supreme Court for directions towards final determination.

The High Court considered its earlier decision of Queensland v J L Holdings Pty Ltd [1997] HCA 1; (1997) 189 CLR 146; (1997) 141 ALR 353; (1997) 71 ALJR 294 (14 January 1997) in the light of how it had been applied by the courts across Australia.

JL Holdings contains the often quoted passage regarding case management:

“Case management is not an end in itself. It is an important and useful aid for ensuring the prompt and efficient disposal of litigation. But it ought always to be borne in mind, even in changing times, that the ultimate aim of a court is the attainment of justice and no principle of case management can be allowed to supplant that aim.”

Queensland v JL Holdings had come to be an authority for the propositions that (1) doing justice between the parties is paramount to the court’s use of discretion when determining an application for leave to amend  (2)case management principles should not limit a court’s discretion when considering such applications and (3) an application for leave to amend should be approached on the basis that a party is entitled to raise an arguable claim subject to payment of costs by way of compensation.

The majority in Aon Risk Services Australia Limited v Australian National University (Gummow, Hayne, Crennan, Kiefel and Bell JJ) at [111-113] held that applications for leave to amend should not be approached on the basis that a party is entitled to raise an arguable claim subject to costs as compensation.

The majority also held that the statements made in Queensland v JL Holdings regarding the limiting of case management principles should not be applied in the future.

French CJ at [30] added that to ignore the concerns of case management would be to ignore the facts of undue delay, wasted costs, strain and uncertainty and erode public confidence in the legal system.

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