After what I have felt has been a slow start to year, in terms of important medical negligence case law, 2 important decisions in 2 days…
On Monday, as reported, the NSW Supreme Court delivered the long awaited (it seems 15 months from trial to decision) decision in Waller v James, the equally unfortunate, as it transpires, case spin-off from Harriton v Stephens, the wrongful life case in which the High Court held no damages could be recovered by the child who would not have been born (because his parents would have terminated the pregnancy), had there not been negligence in the antenatal advice. In Waller, Justice Hislop dismissed the allegations of negligence against IVF doctor Dr James. He made a number of important findings relevant to the assessment of damages in such cases, on topics prior to this point undecided (particularly, whether compensation should be paid for ‘normal’ parental services provided to the child). I will post a more detailed summary of this case shortly. It will be interesting to see whether the case is appealed. The stakes seem high enough to make this likely.
Then today, the High Court delivered a unanimous decision,dismissing the appeal in Wallace v Kam, the NSW case I have written about previously, concerning an action for failure to warn of significant risks of complication. Once again, I will write a summary of such case, when the reasons of the Court are published. In the meantime, by the Court’s published case summary, their decision hinged on their conclusion that:
“Mr Wallace was not to be compensated for the occurrence of physical injury, the risk of which he was willing to accept.”
Of course the converse argument, not accepted by the Court, was that Mr Wallace suffered a serious complication from an operation he would not have agreed to undergo, had Dr Kam properly warned him of the risks of it. It will be interesting to see how the Court reached its conclusion.