Dasreef Pty Ltd v Hawchar [2011] HCA 21 (22 June 2011)


Evidence – Admissibility – Opinion evidence – Section 79(1) of Evidence Act 1995 (NSW) provided that rule excluding evidence of opinion did not apply where “a person has specialised knowledge based on the person’s training, study or experience” and person’s opinion “wholly or substantially based on that knowledge” – Respondent sued appellant in Dust Diseases Tribunal of New South Wales – Respondent claimed he was negligently exposed to unsafe levels of silica while working for appellant – Witness gave evidence about approximate level of respirable silica to which respondent may have been exposed – Opinion treated as admissible to found calculation of numerical or quantitative level of exposure to respirable silica – Whether opinion admissible for that purpose – Requirements for admissibility.

Procedure – Specialist tribunal – Dust Diseases Tribunal of New South Wales – Ability of judge constituting Tribunal to draw on experience as member of specialist tribunal when making findings of fact – Section 25 of Dust Diseases Tribunal Act 1989 (NSW) required Tribunal to apply rules of evidence – Section 25B provided exception subject to various requirements – Trial judge drew on “experience” that silicosis usually caused by very high levels of silica exposure in concluding that respondent’s silicosis caused by exposure to silica – Section 25B neither invoked nor complied with – Whether trial judge entitled to draw on “experience” in making finding of fact.

Procedure – Objection to admissibility of evidence – Evidence taken on voir dire – Trial judge did not rule on objection at conclusion of voir dire – Desirability of ruling on objection to admissibility as soon as possible.

Words and phrases – “based on the person’s training, study or experience”, “basis rule”, “opinion rule”, “specialised knowledge”, “specialist tribunal”, “voir dire”, “wholly or substantially based on that knowledge”.

Evidence Act 1995 (NSW), ss 55(1), 76(1), 79(1).