Vol. 42 No. 3 (2023): The University of Queensland Law Journal
Articles (Special Issue)

A Trans-Tasman Challenge: The Zurich Insurance Litigation Reviewed

Reid Mortensen
University of Southern Queensland

Published 2023-11-28


The Trans-Tasman Proceedings Acts took effect in Australia and New Zealand in 2013, and since then have created a well-functioning trans-Tasman judicial area in which the process of all Australian and New Zealand courts can be served, and the judgments of all of those courts can be enforced, anywhere in New Zealand or Australia. The unquestioned jurisdiction that is given to all Australian and New Zealand courts in trans-Tasman cases is also limited only by principles of forum conveniens and the enforcement of choice of court agreements. In Zurich Insurance Company Limited v Koper (‘Zurich Insurance’), the validity of the Australian rules of jurisdiction under the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (Cth) was challenged. The New South Wales courts and the High Court of Australia all rejected the challenge. This article is an account of the constitutional considerations that were canvassed throughout the Zurich Insurance litigation, including the possibility that a High Court majority recognised a positive constitutional implication when upholding the personal jurisdictions created by the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (Cth) and the recognition of a federal power to extend the jurisdiction of state courts in all international cases. It also undertakes an analysis of the private international law issues of Zurich Insurance: the clarification of the effect of the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Acts; and the unsatisfactory conclusions reached on the territorial application of the Civil Liability (Third Party Claims Against Insurers) Act 2017 (NSW) — the issue that forced the need to consider the validity of the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (Cth) in the first place. In this respect, a plea is made for Australian state parliaments and courts to avoid extra-territorial overreach in the application of state legislation.