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Key decisions

  • Robinson Helicopter Company Incorporated v McDermott [2016] HCA 22
  • Hall v Hall [2016] HCA 23
  • Bell Group N.V. (in liquidation) v Western Australia [2016] HCA 21
  • Betts v The Queen [2016] HCA 25
  • Alqudsi v The Queen [2016] HCA 24


Negligence – duty to take precautions – appellate review – causation

In Robinson Helicopter Company Incorporated v McDermott [2016] HCA 22 (8 June 2016) the High Court considered the correctness of the findings of the primary judge, that a safety inspection procedure in a manual for a helicopter made by the appellant was adequate. The judge’s conclusion followed from factual findings about the likely cause of a loose bolt connected to a helicopter flex plate and a disturbed torque strip, and whether the manual provided sufficient instruction to enable detection of bolt defects at inspections. The Court of Appeal reversed the decision, on the basis of a different finding about the cause of the loose bolt and the torque strip.

The High Court reaffirmed that an appellate court is to conduct a “real review” of the evidence and is required to make factual findings of its own if it concludes that the primary judge erred. But the court should not interfere with the primary judge’s findings unless they are demonstrated to be wrong by “incontrovertible facts or uncontested testimony”, or are “glaringly improbable” or “contrary to compelling inferences”.

The High Court found that the evidence supported the primary judge’s findings and that the judge’s reasons were consistent, contrary to the Court of Appeal decision. Further, even if the Court of Appeal findings had survived, the respondent had failed to make out causation. French CJ, Bell, Keane, Nettle and Gordon JJ jointly. Appeal from the Court of Appeal (Qld) allowed.

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