Latest updates

Court of Appeal upholds Waitemata District Health Board smoking ban
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 12 July 2016

The Court of Appeal recently upheld the High Court's decision banning smoking on all properties owned or controlled by the Waitemata District Health Board. The grounds of appeal were that the policy was illegal, it had been adopted without taking into account relevant considerations and it breached a legitimate expectation and violated rights and freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights Act.

Journalistic privilege upheld as police warrant and search ruled unlawful
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 29 March 2016

The High Court recently ruled that a police warrant to search a journalist's house, and consequently the search itself, was unlawful. The judgment offers useful comment on the importance of disclosure by law enforcement agencies seeking warrants, particularly where journalistic privilege is concerned. However, it does not address the question of who is a journalist, or what journalism is, for the purposes of the privilege.

Extent of lease obligations for remediation of contamination
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 22 March 2016

The Court of Appeal has held Mobil Oil NZ Ltd liable for the cost of remedying hydrocarbon contamination of land that it has occupied since 1925. The issue before the court was whether an obligation in a 1985 lease that required Mobil to deliver up the land "clean and tidy" extended to the remediation of subsurface contamination, including contamination that had occurred long before the lease period.

Attempts to de-register overseas financial service providers run into confusion
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 09 February 2016

Two recent High Court decisions delivered conflicting results on the ability of the Financial Markets Authority to bring about a company's forced de-registration from the Financial Service Providers Register. Both cases involved appeals against proposed de-registration by a financial services company that was registered in New Zealand, but had its substantive operations offshore and no New Zealand customers.

Blanket approach insufficient under official information legislation
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 17 November 2015

The High Court recently ruled that holders of official information are not justified in taking a blanket approach when responding to requests for official information. The judgment confirms the primacy of open government and access to information under freedom of information legislation, but also the limits to the courts' ability to review the substantive merits of a decision to withhold information in a particular case.

Earthquake insurance: problems of successive events and allocation of loss
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 27 October 2015

In 2010 and 2011 the Canterbury region suffered several major earthquakes, resulting in severe destruction. The insurance industry has spent the following years dealing with unprecedented property claims. The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal recently decided a number of important cases regarding earthquake insurance which will shape New Zealand insurance law for decades to come.

Government procurement rules used to set aside ministry's procurement decision
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 20 October 2015

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's rules on government procurement decision making recently featured in a successful judicial review application to set aside a Ministry of Health contract award following a request for proposals process. The court confirmed that cabinet-imposed procurement rules will be strictly applied and that non-complying decisions may be set aside.

Supreme Court clarifies effect of arbitration agreements on court's jurisdiction
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 28 July 2015

A recent Supreme Court decision has clarified the meaning of Article 8(1) of the Arbitration Act and resolved how agreements to arbitrate disputes under a contract should be construed where the existence of a genuine dispute is unclear. This decision set a precedent that when a party to an arbitration agreement attempts to bring court proceedings, the court must stay the matter and refer it to arbitration.

Lawyer negligence in property deals – appeal courts confirm causation test
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 16 June 2015

Two recent cases from the senior appellate courts have confirmed and restated the test for liability of lawyers who negligently advise on property transactions. The courts have affirmed that a stern test should be maintained in professional negligence claims by clients. Disgruntled clients will have to show that, had they been properly advised, they would have changed their course of action.

Unravelling trust assets – trustee powers deemed relationship property
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 28 April 2015

When a marriage or relationship breaks down and there are significant assets in trust structures, bitter disputes and attempts to access those trusts can result. The issues often focus on whether the trust was established as a sham. However, a recent Court of Appeal case has created media and professional consternation with its finding that assets placed in trusts might be scrutinised in different ways too.

Supreme Court and Parliament ease restrictions on awards of interest on court claims
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 07 April 2015

Awards of interest on top of a proved sum of damages or debt owed remain a highly discretionary item for the court in each case, although that may be set to change. A 2014 Supreme Court decision has somewhat relaxed the restrictions on awards of interest, while Parliament is expected to extend and reinforce this approach via statutory changes in the Judicature Modernisation Bill.

High Court intervenes (again) in broadcaster's planned political debate
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 16 December 2014

The leader of the Conservative Party successfully obtained an urgent interim injunction preventing MediaWorks from screening a Saturday morning political debate in which he did not participate. This is the latest occasion in New Zealand where politicians have sought to use judicial review, combined with urgent injunctive court orders, to force media organisations to include them in election coverage.

Kim Dotcom cases test boundaries of international mutual assistance regime
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 07 October 2014

The Court of Appeal has overturned an earlier decision not to extend the registration of the US restraining orders regarding Kim Dotcom, his associate Bram Van de Kolk and their company Megastuff Limited. Further, the court rejected an application by Dotcom's estranged wife to have her assets separated or excluded from the restraining order.

The interrelationship between cross-border insolvency and admiralty claims
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 22 July 2014

For the first time, the New Zealand courts have directly considered the interrelationship between cross-border insolvency and admiralty claims. The case arose from a foreign administration order that was recognised by the New Zealand High Court as a qualifying foreign proceeding and therefore operated as an automatic stay of proceedings in New Zealand. However, the court allowed the claimants to continue their admiralty claims.

'Gardening Club' finally pruned: freight forwarding cartel and agreed penalty settlements
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 27 May 2014

The last participant in an international freight forwarders' price-fixing cartel has finally been dealt with by the High Court in a case that confirms New Zealand's approach towards negotiated settlements and agreed penalties in these quasi-criminal prosecutions brought by a regulator. New Zealand courts remain quite content to endorse this type of 'plea bargaining' approach, despite recent Australian trends questioning it.

Court annulment and modification of charterparties
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 18 February 2014

The High Court recently considered its ability to annul or modify charterparties that are entered into under duress, within its admiralty jurisdiction where the terms of the charterparty are inequitable and construed under the International Convention on Salvage 1989. The dispute underlying the decision arose from the October 2011 grounding of the MV Rena off the New Zealand coast.

Supreme Court mandates disclosure of litigation funding agreements
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 10 December 2013

The Supreme Court has imposed disclosure requirements on plaintiffs whose legal costs of pursuing the claim are covered by a third-party litigation funder. The disclosure required by the Supreme Court is likely to lead to more defendants seeking security for costs when they are notified that a funder is involved or applying for a stay on the basis of abuse of process.

Online defamation: court clarifies host liability for third-party publications
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 01 October 2013

New Zealand, like many other jurisdictions, has been grappling with the new legal issues arising from the upsurge in communication online. An area that has recently received attention is the extent to which a person or entity that hosts or republishes content created by third parties online can be held liable for defamatory content generated by users. Two recent High Court decisions have clarified the approach in New Zealand.

High Court upholds smoking ban for hospitals, but not for prisons
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 30 July 2013

Following two recent decisions which held that the imposition of a smoking ban in prisons, first by amending prison rules and subsequently by amending regulations, was unlawful, the High Court has upheld the lawfulness of a policy banning smoking on all properties owned or controlled by a district health board. The contrasting outcomes provide a useful illustration of the approach taken in judicial review in New Zealand.

Prison smoking ban prompts judicial intervention and raises constitutional concerns
Wilson Harle
  • Litigation
  • New Zealand
  • 09 July 2013

The introduction of a smoking ban in prisons has resulted in the airing of some interesting legal and constitutional issues. The lawfulness of the manner in which the ban was introduced was successfully challenged by a prisoner, and the government's legislative response to the High Court's decision has since provoked both a further successful legal challenge and criticism from a constitutional perspective.