Hawkins V Clayton Case Summary Essay

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Hawkins v Clayton [1988] HCA 15; (1988) 164 CLR 539 (8 April 1988)
High Court of Australia

Case Title: HAWKINS v. CLAYTON [1988] HCA 15; (1988) 164 CLR 539 F.C. 88/012 Medium Neutral Citation: [1988] HCA 15 Hearing Date(s): 1987, May 13 1988, April 8 Decision Date: 20 June 2011 Jurisdiction: High Court of Australia Before: C.J Mason J. Wilson J. Brennan J. Deane J. Gaudron Catchwords: Negligence - Duty of care - Solicitor - Will held by solicitor - Failure to inform executor of death of testator and of contents - Whether duty to do so - Loss to estate caused by executor's ignorance of death - Measure of damages. Limitation of Actions - Tort - Accrual of cause of action -
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After the death of Mrs Braiser, her nephew, Ronald Lamb had taken up residence in her house and had not paid any rent or maintained the property. Mr Lamb had contacted the solicitors and had represented to them that Mr Hawkins had disappeared and requested payment out of the estate for funeral expenses.

Some years later, Mr Hardwick who had been handling the matter had retired and upon the retention of new solicitors from the Executor, had rendered an account for services provided to the estate.

This case was heard in the High Court of Australia on appeal from the judgment handed down from the Supreme Court of New South Wales. In the judgment from the Supreme Court, it was found that the Statute of Limitations had barred the solicitors from being found guilty of a breach of duty of care.

The High Court Judges had not reached a unanimous decision regarding the duty of care owed to the executor. Mason C.J and Wilson J found that there was no duty of care owed to Mr Hawkins and suggested the appeal be dismissed, on the other hand; Brennan, Deane, Gaudron JJ had found that there had been a breach of the duty owed to Mr Hawkins, and that the Limitations Act would not affect any claim of such a breach as the breach did not occur at the time of the death of Mrs Braiser but from when the Solicitors found out of her death.

There was argument that the resultant damages incurred by Mr Hawkins was