Transfer of Proceedings & Jurisdiction – monetary limits not the only deciding factor
A recent decision by His Honour Justice Crow in the Rockhampton Supreme Court involving an application by the Defendant in a workers’ compensation claim to have the matter transferred from the Supreme Court of Rockhampton to the District Court at Rockhampton.
- The construction and interpretation of damages under the Workers' Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003; and
- The considerations to transfer a matter to a different Court.
The plaintiff filed a claim in the Rockhampton Supreme Court on 20 January 2020 for personal injuries sustained pursuant to provisions under the Workers’ Compensation and Rehabilitation Act 2003 (WCRA). The plaintiff claimed damages for an amount of nearly $845,000, less the refund to WorkCover for an amount of approximately $185,000.
As the net damages sought was less than the $750,000 jurisdictional monetary limit of the Supreme Court, the defendant brought an application to have the matter transferred to the District Court.
The plaintiff rejected the defendant’s submissions based on the definition of damages in s10 of the WCRA, namely, s10 does not include a reduction for compensation made pursuant to sections 270 and 271 of the WCRA.
His Honour Justice Crow dismissed the defendant’s application for the reasons set out below.
His Honour recognised that the amount of net damages claimed would have the matter fall within the jurisdictional monetary limit of the District Court, and while this factor itself was sufficient to transfer the matter, His Honour noted that competing factors needed to be considered.
The following salient aspects were also considered by His Honour in deciding not to transfer the matter to the District Court:
- The matter involved a certain degree of complexity;
- The plaintiff had suffered from a serious brain injury;
- The gross damages claimed is for an amount of nearly $845,000 (with His Honour acknowledging that (less the refund) it would be a sum less than the jurisdictional monetary limit of the District Court);
- Depending on the conduct of the trial, the amount particularised in the plaintiff’s claim may not be the upper amount of an award which could be made in her favour;
- Due to a backlog in the District Court, the matter would probably only receive a trial date many months in advance;
- The plaintiff was injured some four years ago and as such, suffers from personal and financial hardship; and
- The adverse cost consequences to the defendant in having the matter litigated in the Supreme Court are limited, as s318 of the WCRA requires cost orders to be made in accordance with the District Court scale.
In light of the above, His Honour found that the defendant had been unable to show that it was in the interest of justice to transfer the matter to the District Court.
Additionally, His Honour commented on the impact COVID-19 has had on the Courts. In particular, the Rockhampton District Court where there are significant delays to have matters heard for trial.
Implications for you
This decision highlights that when contemplating making an application to have a matter transferred, parties must consider the matter as a whole. Whether or not the Court allows an application will be at the Court’s discretion and should not be seen as a right or expectation by parties based on the jurisdictional monetary limit of the Courts.