Friday, 16 April 2010

Barratry

What is barratry? The Supreme Court is only trying to help educate the masses in the recent decision of Tasman Orient Line CV v  New Zealand China Clays Limited And Others SC 39/2009
[16 April 2010]. This wonderful word, for those without the benefit of a legal education is barratry, which is, in general terms, conduct of the master or crew of a vessel intended to prejudice the owners of the vessel or its cargo. Wikipedia, that great legal source, says that it is in admiralty law, an act of gross misconduct committed by a master or crew of a vessel which damages the vessel or its cargo. These activities may include desertion, illegal scuttling, theft of the ship or cargo, and/or committing any actions which may not be in the shipowner's best interests by the master or crew. It has another legal meaning of the act or practice of bringing repeated legal actions solely to harass. I can readily think of some well known litigants who come under this term, apparently now obscure in the Commonwealth jurisdictions.
The case itself is worth reading. Justice Wilson has written a decision of commonsense application, and agreeing with Justice Fogarty who was in a minority in the Court of Appeal. Perhaps the clear and commercial approach are the reasons Justice Wilson was appointed, which are justified in this case, where the academic approach in the Court of Appeal perhaps had lost contact with the reality of shipping and insurance law.

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