Psychiatric injuries and expedited hearings

Key Points
  • The Supreme Court of NSW was not satisfied the plaintiff’s psychiatric condition justified the changing of the venue or the date for the hearing.
  • Where a party seeks to change the venue of a hearing or expedite a hearing date, justice requires a consideration of more than simply the interests of the party making the application.
  • The fact that the matter had been dealt with efficiently to date and the presence of a timetable to ensure that the matter was ready for hearing in February 2017 was relevant to the decision to deny the plaintiff’s application.

A recent decision of the Supreme Court of NSW considered whether the interest of justice were served by a change of venue for the hearing and expedition of the hearing date.

Whilst not a medical negligence claim this recent decision of the Supreme Court of New South Wales is interesting so far as dealing with applications for a change of venue or an expedited hearing in the case of psychiatric injury.

In this matter the plaintiff was seriously injured in June 2011 during the course of his work when he was struck by the bucket of a mechanical excavator.  The plaintiff alleges that he has sustained a series of injuries as a result. The injuries include an alleged brain injury as well as a major depressive disorder.

In this application for an expedited hearing and change of venue the plaintiff submitted he would suffer hardship if he was required to be away from his home in regional New South Wales when the proceedings were heard in Sydney for a week in February 2017.  The plaintiff tendered evidence from a psychiatrist in support of his application.

The plaintiff’s psychiatric expert noted whilst it was well recognised that litigation delays recovery he had observed a relentless and progressive deterioration in the plaintiff’s condition since his initial contact with him in 2012.  The psychiatrist concluded there was a risk of serious harm to the plaintiff if the litigation was prolonged and on this basis he stated there was a very strong case for the trial in this matter to be expedited.

In considering this application the Court had regard to the interests of both parties as opposed to those just of the plaintiff.

When making a decision the Court noted:

  1. the majority of the experts who would give evidence in this matter were all based in Sydney;
  2. arrangements that had been made for the holding of expert conclaves to take place in the near future;
  3. the availability of witnesses for an early hearing;
  4. mediation of the matter was planned to take place in September near the plaintiff’s home to minimise the disruption on the plaintiff;
  5. the desire of the first defendant to have the plaintiff re-assessed by a psychiatrist in light of the recent further psychiatric evidence served by the plaintiff;
  6. the case appeared to have been handled efficiently;
  7. the court timetable which is currently in place in order to prepare the matter for hearing in February 2017;
  8. the plaintiff’s psychiatric condition which is not a recent development; and
  9. the period of time between now and February 2017 is not likely to make the plaintiff’s condition worse.

The Court concluded that the relocation of the whole of the proceedings would create an unnecessary expense and occasion undue inconvenience and therefore on balance it was determine in the interests of justice to retain the current hearing date and venue.

Post by Karen Kumar 

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