Coronavirus and the Law of Obligations

COVID-19 has touched every aspect of Australian society, including the law of obligations. This comment considers how the pandemic could affect contracts – a topic which is already a very popular subject of law firms’ client updates. After discussing frustration and force majeure, it addresses a few relevant torts, including trespass to the person, the tort recognised in Wilkinson v Downton, and negligence. The comment is intended to provoke further dialogue on how COVID-19 is affecting Australian law, including in the forthcoming thematic issue of the University of New South Wales Law Journal on ‘Rights Protection amidst COVID-19’.

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Planned Litigation: Should It Play a Greater Role in Human Rights Litigation in Australia?

Planned litigation is a form of litigation used by human rights organisations around the world. However, the full scope of this method is not widely known in Australia. This article outlines the full scope of what is known overseas as planned litigation. It also undertakes a preliminary review of litigation in the High Court by Australian human rights organisations and finds both that there are some indications of a lack of success in such litigation and that there is little evidence of the use of planned litigation. It then argues that its outline of the details of planned litigation along with such preliminary data forms a basis to begin a discussion in Australia about whether Australian human rights organisations should experiment with greater elements of planned litigation. Finally, it outlines ways in which planned litigation might improve the effectiveness of High Court litigation by Australian human rights organisations and factors that might affect the viability of such a use of planned litigation.

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The High Court on Constitutional Law: The 2016 Term

‘[c]ertainty generally is illusion…’ [1]

In pondering the High Court’s 2016 constitutional law term it is hard to ignore the broader commentary of the year. For The Economist, 2016 was the ‘year of shocks’.[2] The Sydney Morning Herald noted that 2016 had been given the inauspicious and not easily obtained title of the ‘worst year ever’, citing any number of events from Brexit and the war in Syria to the loss of countless musical and acting legends as well as the likes of Justice Antonin Scalia and Muhammad Ali.[3]

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  1. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, ‘The Path of the Law’ (1897) X Harvard Law Review 457, 466.
  2. Buttonwood, ‘Seeing Through a Glass Darkly’, The Economist (London), 24 December 2016, 88.
  3. Christopher Borrelli, ‘2016 Was A Year Defined by Loss’, Sydney Morning Herald (online), 5 January 2017 <>.