Stevens v Head: 18 Mar 1993

(High Court of Australia) The court considered a claim for damages arising out of a motor accident in New South Wales, where the claim had been brought in the courts of Queensland. The questions arose as to whether or not a provision in the Motor Accidents Act 1988 of New South Wales which limited the amount of damages which could be recovered in respect of non-economic loss was a substantive rule to be applied as part of the lex causae.
Held: In relation to questions of the quantification of damage, anything beyond the ascertainment of the heads of liability is a procedural question, and thus referring to a New South Wales statute: ‘section 79 is plainly a provision which affects the measure of damages but does not touch the heads of liability in respect of which damages might be awarded. It is simply a law relating to the quantification of damages and that, as we have seen, is a matter governed solely by the lex fori.’
Mason CJ: ‘The law relating to damages is partly procedural and partly substantive. According to the traditional application of the substance-procedure distinction, the question whether legislative provisions dealing with awards of damages are substantive or procedural has been approached by asking whether the provisions affect the character of the wrong actionable or go only to the measure of compensation. This approach is consistent with the equation traditionally drawn between matters of procedure and matters relating to remedies.’


Mason CJ, Brennan, Deane, Dawson, Toohey, Gudron, McHugh JJ


[1993] HCA 19, (1993) 112 ALR 7, [1993] Aust Torts Reports 81-203, (1993) 17 MVR 1, (1993) 67 ALJR 343, [1993] 176 CLR 433




CitedCope v Doherty CA 2-Jan-1858
Turner LJ: ‘An attempt was made on the part of the appellants to bring this case within Don v Lippman and cases of that class, but I think those cases have no bearing upon the point. This is a question of liability, and not of procedure.’ . .

Cited by:

ApprovedRoerig v Valiant Trawlers Ltd CA 28-Jan-2002
The claimant who was Dutch, was a widow of a fisherman who had died at sea. The question on appeal was ‘in assessing damages for loss of dependency should benefits resulting from the loss be deducted from the damages?’ The claimant’s position under . .
CitedHarding v Wealands CA 17-Dec-2004
The claimant sought damages here for a road traffic accident which had occurred in Australia. The defendant was working in England. The defendant argued that the law of New South Wales applied.
Held: The general rule in section 11 was not to . .
CitedHarding v Wealands HL 5-Jul-2006
Claim in UK for Accident in Australia
The claimant had been a passenger in a car driven by his now partner. They had an accident in New South Wales. The car was insured in Australia. He sought leave to sue in England and Wales because Australian law would limit the damages.
Held: . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Jurisdiction

Updated: 30 April 2022; Ref: scu.222524