Dependency claim damages

Norris v Routley [2015] NSWSC 883 was a dependency claim, following the death of Mr Norris. Mr Norris suffered from liver disease, secondary to a hepatitis C infection. It was accepted by the defendant that Mr Norris was a suitable candidate for liver transplant surgery that would in all likelihood have saved and prolonged his life and that his death in effect was caused by the defendant’s negligent failure in a proper or timely way to arrange it: [1].

The decision therefore focused on assessment of damages, noting at [33]:

Dr Routley maintains however that the death of Mr Norris did not deprive the Norris household of anything that produced a loss at all. In plain terms, Dr Routley contended that the benefits contributed to the household by Mr Norris during his lifetime were exceeded by the costs of supporting him as one of its members. In other words, even taking account the combination of Mr Norris’s salary on the one hand and the economic benefit of the services that he provided for no fee, for which the household would otherwise notionally have been required to pay, on the other hand, the proportion or percentage of the total household budget consumed by Mr Norris exceeded the total monetary value of his contribution in both respects.

The decision includes some judicial comments in relation to:

  • Exclusion from the necessary calculation of certain benefits, such as insurance contract proceeds: [35]
  • The availability of as yet unavailable anti-virals for treatment of Hepatitis C, impacting life expectancy: [65]
  • Whether the dependency and consumption proportions referred to in Luntz should be applied: [92]
  • It is beside the point that some of the services provided by Mr Norris may have coincidentally been of some benefit to him: [106]
  • Assessment of the costs of continuing care and treatment for Mr Norris had he survived and received a transplant may be required: [112]

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