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On 30 September the Court delivered the first ruling on amendments made to the Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (Vic).

The 2019 amendments to the Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (Vic) allow a court to set aside a previous settlement or judgment in certain historical sexual abuse claims if it is ‘just and reasonable’ to do so. Justice Keogh set aside a deed of settlement entered into by the Plaintiff in 1996 in a claim for damages against the former Bishop of Sale arising out of alleged sexual abuse by a priest of the diocese in the late 1970s. Justice Keogh found that the settlement sum of $32,500 represented a significant discount on what the Plaintiff might otherwise have expected to recover had he been able to sue a proper representative defendant and not been faced with defences that the limitation period for his claim had expired and concerning the Bishop’s liability for the conduct of the priest. 

Amendments to the Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (Vic) in 2015 removed limitation periods in respect of historical child abuse claims. The Legal Identity of Defendants (Organisational Child Abuse) Act 2018 (Vic) makes it easier to sue a representative defendant in such claims. The law concerning vicarious liability has also been developed by the High Court since the Plaintiff settled his claim. These and other factors were found to be relevant to the question of whether it was just and reasonable to set aside the settlement. 

NOTE: This summary is necessarily incomplete. It is not intended as a substitute for the Court’s reasons or to be used in any later consideration of the Court’s reasons. The only authoritative pronouncement of the Court’s reasons and conclusions is that contained in the published reasons for judgment.

Read the full judgment on Austlii.

Published on 02 October 2020