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STATUTES OF LIMITATION BETWEEN CLASSIFICATION AND RENVOI—AUSTRALIAN AND SOUTH AFRICAN APPROACHES COMPARED

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 August 2011

Sirko Harder
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer, Monash Law School.

Abstract

This article compares the ways in which Australian and South African courts have approached issues of classification and renvoi where a defendant argues that the action is time-barred. There are two differences in approach. First, Australian courts classify all statutes of limitation as substantive, whereas South African courts distinguish between right-extinguishing statutes (substantive) and merely remedy-barring statutes (procedural). Second, the High Court of Australia has used renvoi in the context of the limitation of actions whereas South African courts have yet to decide on whether to use renvoi. This article assesses the impact of those differences in various situations.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2011 British Institute of International and Comparative Law

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References

1 In this article, the term ‘lex causae’ denotes a foreign legal system to which the lex fori's conflict rules directly refer for the issue before the court. If the forum court uses the concept of renvoi, the lex causae is not necessarily the legal system whose internal rules are applied in deciding the issue before the court. That legal system may be the lex fori, the lex causae or a third legal system.

2 Huber v Steiner (1835) 2 Bing NC 202, 210–211; 132 ER 80, 84; Phillips v Eyre (1870) LR 6 QB 1, 29; Black-Clawson International Ltd v Papierwerke Waldhof-Aschaffenburg AG [1975] AC 591 (HL) 630.

3 Pedersen v Young (1964) 110 CLR 162 (HCA); McKain v RW Miller & Co (SA) Pty Ltd (1991) 174 CLR 1 (HCA).

4 Slabbert v Federated Employers' Insurance Co Ltd (1979) (3) SA 207, 209; Kuhne & Nagel AG Zurich v APA Distributors (Pty) Ltd (1981) (3) SA 536, 537–538.

5 Williams v Jones (1811) 13 East 439, 450–451; 104 ER 441, 447; Ruckmaboye v Mottichund (1851) 8 Moo PC 4, 36–37; 14 ER 2, 15–16 (PC); Yew Bon Tew v Kenderaan Bas Mara [1983] 1 AC 553 (PC) 558.

6 Pedersen v Young (1964) 110 CLR 162 (HCA); McKain v RW Miller & Co (SA) Pty Ltd (1991) 174 CLR 1 (HCA).

7 For the Prescription Act 18 of 1943 see Kuhne & Nagel AG Zurich v APA Distributors (Pty) Ltd 1981 (3) SA 536, 538; Protea International (Pty) Ltd v Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co (1990) (2) SA 566, 568–569; Society of Lloyd's v Price [2006] SCA 87, para 16.

8 This argument was presented, and rejected, in Tolofson v Jensen [1994] 3 SCR 1022 (SCC) 1069–1070.

9 Limitation Act 1985 (ACT); Limitation Act 1969 (NSW); Limitation Act 1981 (NT); Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld); Limitation of Actions Act 1936 (SA); Limitation Act 1974 (Tas); Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (Vic); Limitation Act 2005 (WA).

10 The Commonwealth v Mewett (1997) 191 CLR 471 (HCA) 534–535; Re Sommer and Secretary, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs [2008] AATA 836, (2008) 104 ALD 134, paras 23–25. For the limitation period in section 82(2) of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth), renamed as Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), see Larrikin Music Publishing Pty Ltd v EMI Songs Australia Pty Ltd (No 2) [2010] FCA 698, (2010) 270 ALR 481, paras 126–127.

11 Limitation Act 1985 (ACT), ss 55 and 56; Choice of Law (Limitation Periods) Act 1993 (NSW), ss 3 and 5; Choice of Law (Limitation Periods) Act 1994 (NT), ss 4 and 5; Choice of Law (Limitation Periods) Act 1996 (Qld), ss 4 and 5; Limitation of Actions Act 1936 (SA), s 38A; Limitation Act 1974 (Tas), ss 32A and 32C; Choice of Law (Limitation Periods) Act 1993 (Vic), ss 3 and 5; Choice of Law (Limitation Periods) Act 1994 (WA), ss 4 and 5. These provisions are mirrored by sections 28A–28C of New Zealand's Limitation Act 1950.

12 John Pfeiffer Pty Ltd v Rogerson [2000] HCA 36, (2000) 203 CLR 503, paras 100, 132–133, 161, 192–193; Neilson v Overseas Projects Corporation of Victoria Ltd [2005] HCA 54, (2005) 223 CLR 331.

13 Tolofson v Jensen [1994] 3 SCR 1022 (SCC) 1067–1072; Castillo v Castillo [2005] SCC 83, [2005] 3 SCR 870, paras 7, 15.

14 Society of Lloyd's v Price [2006] SCA 87, para 10. The decision is discussed in detail below.

15 Kuhne & Nagel AG Zurich v APA Distributors (Pty) Ltd 1981 (3) SA 536, 538–539; Protea International (Pty) Ltd v Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co 1990 (2) SA 566, 568; Society of Lloyd's v Price [2006] SCA 87, paras 15–16.

16 Law Commission, Classification of Limitation in Private International Law (Law Com No 114, 1982).

17 Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984 (UK), s 1(1).

18 ibid s 2(1).

19 ibid s 1(5).

20 ibid s 4(2).

21 Forsyth, C, ‘“Mind the Gap”: A Practical Example of the Characterisation of Prescription/ Limitation Rules’ (2006) 2 J Priv Int L 169CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 177.

22 ibid.

23 eg Eiselen, S, ‘Laconian Revisited—A Reappraisal of Classification in Conflicts Law’ (2006) 123 SALJ 147, 151155Google Scholar.

24 eg C F Forsyth, Private International Law (4th edn, Juta, Cape Town, 2003) 71.

25 M Davies, S Ricketson and G Lindell, Conflict of Laws: Commentary and Materials (Butterworths, London, 1997) para 7.3.8; P E Nygh and M Davies, Conflict of Laws in Australia (7th edn, LexisNexis Butterworths, London, 2002) para 15.8; EI Sykes and MC Pryles, Australian Private International Law (3rd edn, Law Book Co, 1991) 223; M Tilbury, G Davis and B Opeskin, Conflict of Laws in Australia (OUP, Oxford, 2002) 1012.

26 [2005] HCA 54, (2005) 223 CLR 331.

27 Callinan J in the High Court reported the trial judge's decision on the claim in contract: [2005] HCA 54, (2005) 223 CLR 331, para 228. It should be noted that the recognition of a contract for the protection of a third party would have made the claim in tort and thus the whole discussion of renvoi irrelevant.

28 John Pfeiffer Pty Ltd v Rogerson [2000] HCA 36, (2000) 203 CLR 503 (HCA); Regie Nationale des Usines Renault SA v Zhang [2002] HCA 10, (2002) 210 CLR 491.

29 This is now expressly provided for in article 7 of China's Law on the Application of Law for Foreign-Related Civil Legal Relationships, which Law came into force on 1 April 2011; see Tu, G, ‘China's New Conflicts Code: General Issues and Selected Topics’ (2011) 59 Am J Comp L 563CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 571.

30 Article 44 of China's Law on the Application of Law for Foreign-Related Civil Legal Relationships now provides hat tortious liability is governed by the law chosen by the parties after the event or, in the absence of such a choice, by the law of the parties' common habitual residence or, in the absence of a common habitual residence, by the lex loci delicti (without requirement of double actionability); see G Tu ibid 582–584.

31 Pursuant to article 146(2) GPCL, an act committed outside China was not to be treated as an infringing act unless Chinese law considered it an infringing act (requirement of double actionability); see Qisheng, H, ‘Recent Developments with regard to Choice of Law in Tort in China’ (2009) 11 Yrbk Pr Int L 211, 219220Google Scholar.

32 The use of the Chinese term ke yi (‘may’ in English) indicates that the court was entitled, but not obliged, to displace the lex loci delicti in favour of the lex patriae or the lex domicilii: H Qisheng, ibid, 218.

33 Art 9 of China's Law on the Application of Law for Foreign-Related Civil Legal Relationships now expressly rejects renvoi; see Tu, G, ‘China's New Conflicts Code: General Issues and Selected Topics’ (2011) 59 Am J Comp L 563CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 572.

34 [2005] HCA 54, (2005) 223 CLR 331, paras 195–215.

35 ibid paras 39–59.

36 ibid paras 255–261.

37 They are discussed, eg, by Forsyth (n 24) 85–89; Hughes, DA, ‘The Insolubility of Renvoi and its Consequences’ (2010) 6 J Priv Int L 195CrossRefGoogle Scholar; O Kahn-Freund, General Problems of Private International Law (Sijthoff, Leiden, 1976) 285–288.

38 Forsyth ibid 83. South African legislation excludes renvoi where domicile is the connecting factor (Domicile Act 1992, s 4) and with regard to the formal validity of wills (Wills Act 1953, s 3bis).

39 1981 (3) SA 536, 539.

40 1993 (2) SA 104.

41 ibid 121.

42 Falconbridge, JD, ‘Conflict Rule and Characterization of Question’ (1952) 30 Can Bar Rev 103, 264Google Scholar; JD Falconbridge, Essays on the Conflict of Laws (2nd edn, Canada Law Book Co, 1954) 53–70.

43 Falconbridge (1952) ibid 281; Falconbridge (1954) ibid 70.

44 Kahn-Freund (n 37) 227–231.

45 Another approach is to leave the classification to the lex causae. In Neilson Kirby J said that the substantive law of China ‘was to be ascertained, not by reference to the (often artificial) classifications of Australian law as to what law is substantive or procedural. It was to be decided by reference to what the law of China treated as “substantive”’: [2005] HCA 54, (2005) 223 CLR 331, para 187.

46 These and other reasons are explained by Neels, JL, ‘Falconbridge in Africa’ (2008) 4 J Priv Int L 167, 192196Google Scholar.

47 [2006] WASCA 25.

48 Pursuant to section 24A(2) of Singapore's Limitation Act 1959, an action for personal injury caused by the breach of a contractual or tortious duty of care cannot be brought after the expiration of three years from the date on which the plaintiff obtains the knowledge required for bringing an action. The plaintiff unsuccessfully argued that ‘knowledge’ for the purpose of section 24A(2) includes knowledge that Australian courts classify all statutes of limitation as substantive. That classification was only laid down in 2000 in John Pfeiffer Pty Ltd v Rogerson [2000] HCA 36, (2000) 203 CLR 503.

49 The limitation period was six years under the Limitation Act 1935 (WA), s 38(1)(c)(v).

50 [2006] WASCA 25, para 59.

51 Eiselen (n 23) 158–159; Bennett, TW and Kopke, K, ‘Society of Lloyd's v Price: Characterization and “Gap” in the Conflict of Laws’ (2008) 125 SALJ 62Google Scholar, 69.

52 Neels (n 46) 180.

53 2005 (3) SA 549 (Pretoria High Court); [2006] SCA 87 (Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa).

54 2006 (4) SA 23.

55 2005 (3) SA 549, 563–564. Mynhardt J gave no reason other than referring to Laconian Maritime Enterprises Ltd v Agromar Lineas Ltd 1986 (3) SA 509 and Minister of Transport, Transkei v Abdul 1995 (1) SA 366. These cases are considered in the text below.

56 2006 (4) SA 23, paras 84–89.

57 Society of Lloyd's v Price [2006] SCA 87.

58 ibid para 14.

59 ibid.

60 ibid paras 15–16.

61 ibid paras 17–21.

62 ibid para 22.

63 ibid paras 26–31.

64 Bennett and Kopke (n 51) 68; Forsyth, C, ‘“Mind the Gap Part II”: The South African Supreme Court of Appeal and Characterisation’ (2006) 2 J Priv Int L 425, 430431Google Scholar; Neels (n 46) 186–187; Roodt, C, ‘A Wider Vision in Choice of Prescription Law’ (2007) 9 yrbk Pr Int L 357Google Scholar, 366, 370, 372–373.

65 [2006] SCA 87, paras 15–16.

66 Neels (n 46) 181.

67 Sections 3(2) and 17 of the Limitation Act 1980 (UK) provide for the extinction of title and must therefore be classified as substantive: J Harris, ‘Substance and Procedure’ in L Collins (ed), Dicey, Morris and Collins on the Conflict of Laws (14th edn, Sweet & Maxwell, London, 2006) para 7–045.

68 Similarly Neels (n 46) 181, esp fn 72.

69 1995 (1) SA 366, 369.

70 RGZ 7, 21 (1882).

71 AA Ehrenzweig, Private International Law, General Part (Sijthoff, Leiden, 1967) 103.

72 1986 (3) SA 509.

73 ibid 524–530.

74 ibid 524, 530.

75 ibid 524.

76 1995 (1) SA 366, 369.

77 2006 (4) SA 23, para 86.

78 ibid. This approach is called the ‘residual lex causae’ by Forsyth (n 64) 427.

79 Eiselen (n 23) 151–155.

80 ibid 158–159.

81 Bennett and Kopke (n 51).

82 Eiselen (n 23) 158.

83 [2006] SCA 87, para 27. The Law Commission for England and Wales has summarised the main criticisms: Law Commission (n 16) para 3.2.

84 [2006] SCA 87, para 28.

85 ibid para 29.

86 [2006] WASCA 25, para 19.

87 ibid para 43.

88 Eiselen (n 23) 158–159.

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