Category Archives: Landmark cases

Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (“Mabo case”) [1992] HCA 23

ON 3 JUNE 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (“Mabo case”) [1992] HCA 23; (1992) 175 CLR 1 (3 June 1992).

Upon the British Crown’s acquisition of sovereignty over parts of Australia since 1788, aboriginal native title survived and as such the doctrine of terra nullius does not apply to Australia.

Where validly asserted, native title entitles its holders as against the world to possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of the particular land over which the title is claimed. It is ascertained according to the laws and customs of it’s indigenous inhabitants who have a connexion with the land through continued use and enjoyment by the group or clan since the Crown’s acquisition of sovereignty.

Native title is inalienable but is extinguished if the clan or group ceases to have a connexion with the land, or by a valid exercise of government power under the laws of the Commonwealth.

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McKinney v R [1991] HCA 6

ON 22 MARCH 1991, the High Court of Australia delivered McKinney v R [1991] HCA 6; (1991) 171 CLR 468 (22 March 1991).

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1991/6.html

A trial judge must warn a jury of the dangers of convicting the accused on the basis of their alleged admissions whilst in custody.

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Hawkins v Clayton [1988] HCA 15

ON 8 APRIL 1988, the High Court of Australia delivered Hawkins v Clayton [1988] HCA 15; (1988) 164 CLR 539 (8 April 1988).

A firm of solicitors was held to be negligent by failing to take reasonable steps to locate an executor (a non-client) following the death of a testatrix (a client whose will they prepared and retained for safe keeping) for some six years after the testatrix’s death.  The solicitors were held to be liable to pay damages for the loss suffered by the executor (who was also a residuary beneficiary) in not being able to manage the estate during the period of delay.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1988/15.html

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Mallet v Mallet [1984] HCA 21

ON 10 APRIL 1984, the High Court of Australia delivered Mallet v Mallet [1984] HCA 21; (1984) 156 CLR 605 (10 April 1984).

Equality had long been the starting point when dividing matrimonial property on divorce.  The High Court in this case held that there is not to be a presumption of equality and that each case is to be determined upon a consideration of it’s particular circumstances.

Section 79(4) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) requires consideration of the financial contributions, non-financial contributions and parental and/or homemaker services.

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Viro v R [1978] HCA 9

ON 11 APRIL 1978, the High Court of Australia delivered Viro v R [1978] HCA 9; (1978) 141 CLR 88 (11 April 1978).

The High Court held that it is no longer bound by decisions of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.  The court is “pre-eminently equipped to decide what is the law for Australia”.

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/1978/9.html

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In the Matter of Karen Quinlan, an alleged incompetent 70 NJ 10

ON 31 MARCH 1976, the Supreme Court of New Jersey permitted the life support system of the permanently comatose Karen Ann Quinlan to be turned off to allow her to die a natural death without any civil or criminal liability on her guardian or treatment providers: see IN THE MATTER OF KAREN QUINLAN, AN ALLEGED INCOMPETENT Supreme Court of New Jersey 70 N.J. 10; 355 A.2d 647; 1976 N.J. LEXIS 181; 79 A.L.R.3d 205

Click to access In_Re_Quinlan.pdf

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IN THE MATTER OF KAREN QUINLAN, AN ALLEGED INCOMPETENT 1976 70 NJ 10

ON THIS DAY IN 1976, the Supreme Court of New Jersey delivered IN THE MATTER OF KAREN QUINLAN, AN ALLEGED INCOMPETENT 70 N.J. 10; 355 A.2d 647; 1976 N.J. LEXIS 181; 79 A.L.R.3d 205.  The guardian, hospital and treatment providers of Karen Ann Quinlan were permitted to turn off her life support system as she was in a persistent vegetative state.

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1974 | Nuclear Tests case

ON THIS DAY in 1974, the International Court of Justice delivered Nuclear Tests (Australia v France).

Click to access 6093.pdf

 

1954 | Brown v Board of Education

ON THIS DAY in 1954, the US Supreme Court delivered Brown v Board of Education, a ruling which ended racial segregation in US schools by holding that state sanctioned segregation was a violation of the 14th amendment.

 

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] UKHL 100

ON 26 MAY 1932, the House of Lords delivered Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562; [1932] UKHL 100 (26 May 1932).

ww.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKHL/1932/100.html

Mrs Donoghue suffered shock and severe gastro enteritis after consuming a bottle of ginger beer which contained the decomposed remains of a snail. The bottle had been purchased by her friend. She sought damages from the manufacturer without having a contractual relationship with them.

Mrs Donoghue was awarded damages as the court ruled that the manufacturer owed her a duty to take reasonable care and that duty existed independently of the contract.

The case established the tort of negligence.

Per Lord Atkin:

“You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who then in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.”

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