NSW: Limitation extension application.

Greenfield v Sydney Local Health District t/as Royal Prince Alfred Hospital [2020] NSWSC 1479 (on Caselaw) saw an unsucessful application to extend the time in which to commence proceedings in relation to the Compensation to Relatives Act 1897 (NSW).

The applicant’s husband had died in 1997 at RPAH. She made a coomplaints to the Health Care Complaints Commission in 1999 -2004 and sought advice from a number of lawyers in 2002 – 2005. (Other factual history was addressed in the judgment.) The proceedings were ultimately issued iin 2019.

The Court noted at [81] – [82]:

“The plaintiff has given various explanations for her delay in instituting proceedings, including that she suffered from ongoing issues with her mental health and struggled enough merely trying to support herself, although I note that she was able to commence proceedings against the Australian Catholic University between 2009 and 2010. She also says she was told by various solicitors over the years that they were unwilling to assist her, although it appears that at least in relation to some of the advice she received, she was told that her claim was statute barred. Her primary explanation for why she only instituted these proceedings in 2019 is that it was not until 4 August 2018 that she discovered “court documents” in relation to the deceased which inspired her to pursue her claim. She has not explained what these documents were other than that they caused her to make an application for letters of administration in relation to her deceased’s husband’s estate. That application was granted. The plaintiff has not furnished to this Court any medico-legal opinion as to the cause of her husband’s death, her own medical condition or the legal advice she has received, including being advised that the limitation period had expired.”

At [84] the Court concluded: “While I accept that the plaintiff has suffered PTSD and dysthymia due to her husband’s death, I find her explanation for the delay in bringing proceedings against the defendant unsatisfactory. Due to the long delay in making the application to extend the limitation period, the lack of evidence produced to the Court, and the presumptive prejudice in the delay in instituting proceedings until over 20 years since the deceased’s death, I am not satisfied that both parties will obtain a fair trial. In these circumstances, it is my view that it is not just and reasonable to extend the limitation period under s 60H of the Limitation Act.”