Introduction of Insurance List for Short Matters

As part of the National Court Framework (NCF) reforms, the Federal Court of Australia has created an Insurance List within the Commercial Contracts, Banking, Finance and Insurance sub-area of the Commercial and Corporations National Practice Area. It will cover marine and non-marine insurance.

At this stage, the List will be run by Chief Justice Allsop with the first hearing dates to commence in Melbourne on 10 and 11 March 2016. The Chief Justice will also decide as to the suitability of the matter for the list.

The List will allow for a tailored approach to discrete insurance matters relating to questions of policy interpretation and the operation of insurance legislation such as the Insurance Contracts Act1984 (Cth) and the Marine Insurance Act 1909 (Cth). The hearing of matters on the List are to be confined to less than two hours. The benefit of being able to quickly determine discrete legal issues will hopefully avoid the scenario where underwriters are joined to time consuming and costly disputes between insureds and third parties.

However, the List will not be an appropriate avenue to resolve matters where there is a dispute on the facts and a factual determination needs to be made.

Theoretically, the List will create efficiencies in the Federal Court of Australia on two fronts. First, it will provide an efficient mechanism for underwriters, reinsurers, brokers and insureds to have disputes resolved without the need for a full hearing, avoiding the associated time and costs. Secondly, if the List actually delivers on its intended goal, it will free up the Federal Court of Australia’s resources to hear the increasing number of complex cases that sit within its purview.

At this stage, there are a number of unknowns about how effective the List will be, how busy it will be or how it will operate, including with respect to how and when judgments will be delivered. We do know that there will be avenues for appeal, which will be arranged expeditiously before judges of the Commercial Contracts, Banking, Finance and Insurance sub-area of the Commercial and Corporations NPA.

The Chief Justice has welcomed comment from practitioners on the effectiveness and utility of the List once it commences to operate.

For any queries regarding this article, please contact Bridget Wall bwall@pageseager.com.au / 03 6235 5173.

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