Choice of Law Bill passes third reading

The Private International Law (Choice of Law in Tort) Bill has passed its third reading on Wednesday evening with unanimous support.

Chapman Tripp has supported the Bill from the outset as it makes practical and overdue changes to the conflict of law rules for tort.

The key reform of the Bill is to implement a place-of-the-wrong rule for tort claims for an action committed in another jurisdiction. New Zealand courts must now apply the law of the jurisdiction in which the events constituting the tort occurred, unless it is substantially more appropriate to apply the law of another jurisdiction.

In the third reading of the Members’ Bill, National MP Sarah Dowie, who sponsored the Bill, noted that it “is both sensible and logical and that it is what you would expect of our judicial system”.

Labour MP Dr Duncan Webb noted that the "substantially more appropriate" exception, while the most practicable way of permitting required flexibility, created a broad judicial discretion that would need to be refined through practice and case law.

Changes made at the recommendation of the Select Committee stage, include clarification that:

  • the Bill does not limit or affect the application of the Crown Proceedings Act to any claim in tort by or against the Crown
  • applies to events occurring in New Zealand as it applies to events occurring in any other country
  • the applicable law for personal injury claims is the law of the country where the individual was injured
  • the definition of “personal injury" includes a physical injury or mental injury or both, and includes disease or infection
  • the Bill does not preclude the recognition or development of a choice of law rule under which parties would choose the law applicable to a tort claim, and
  • questions of procedure are to be determined according to New Zealand law, and that this distinction may be further developed through case law.

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