On the 10 February, 2020 the Supreme Court of Victoria embarked on a specialised Institutional Liability List to deal only with civil claims related to institutional abuse.
The new list will include claims for damages which have arisen from or following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and/or the State Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations.
The new list will manage the following claims:-
- Claims against an organisation founded on the death or personal injury of a person as a result of alleged physical or sexual abuse of a minor.
- Claims for breach of the duty of care imposed by s.91 of the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic).
- Certain applications to set aside a previous judgment or settlement agreement.
- Claims against an educational organisation arising out of the death or personal injury of a student of that organisation as a result of physical, sexual or psychological abuse by a fellow student or individual employed or associated with that organisation.
The underlying rationale for the establishment of the new specialist list is that since the removal of the statute of limitations on historical child abuse claims and the passing of legislation allowing settlements and judgments which occurred before this change to be overturned, the Court has seen a significant increase in the number of personal injury damages claims relating to historical institutional child abuse. The number of such claims doubled in the 2018/19 financial year, and there are currently 262 pending cases which will be transferred to the new list.
It is hoped that the establishment of this new specialist list will allow for more efficient, experienced and consistent management of cases as the list will be overseen by two assigned judges of the court.
The Institutional Liability List will be the thirteenth specialist list within the Common Law Division and is expected to be the third largest.
The establishment of this list is an interesting development especially when there is also a national redress scheme in place as it clearly illustrates that litigation in civil claims related to institutional abuse is increasing rather than tapering off, which is the usual consequence of the introduction of a national redress scheme.
It also shows how any change in the law of limitation in this area will put the court system under pressure even if there is a national redress scheme and additional resources both financial and otherwise will have to be put in place by the state.
In England and Wales we will have to await the recommendations of IICSA on limitation on historical child sexual abuse claims but in the event that similar recommendations are made by IICSA it is likely we will see a comparable list introduced here.
Written by Sharon Moohan at BLM