Judge Caps Court Costs on Disability Case -PIAC
20 October 2010 at 3:53 pm
A decision in the Federal Court is expected to have national ramifications for public interest litigants according to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, PIAC.
The Federal Court has agreed to cap costs in Julia Haraksin’s disability discrimination complaint against the bus company Murrays Australia Ltd.
PIAC says Justice Nicholas ruled that in ‘the interests of justice’ he favoured making the order sought by Julia Haraksin ‘except that it should be for the amount of $25,000 rather than $15,000’.
Justice Nicholas said he was satisfied that there was a public interest element in this case and that the case was brought by the applicant in good faith.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre was acting on behalf of Julia Haraksin, who tried to book a seat on a Murrays coach from Sydney to Canberra.
The Court heard that Haraksin was told Murrays would not accept her booking because she is in a wheelchair.
PIAC says Federal disability standards require transport providers to have at least 25 per cent of their vehicles wheelchair-accessible.
The Advocacy group says Haraksin is not seeking financial compensation. Instead, she is seeking a court order directing Murrays to comply with the federal standards.
Murrays has claimed that modifications would cause the company undue hardship.
Last week, Justice Nicholas heard Haraksin’s application to have her legal costs capped at $15,000. Murrays opposed the application.
PIAC Solicitor, Gemma Namey says that without this cost cap Haraksin would not have been able to proceed with her case and the decision removes an inappropriate barrier to this discrimination case.
It is not the first time PIAC has secured a cost cap in its public interest litigation.
In a landmark decision for public interest litigants, PIAC secured a cost cap in a disability discrimination case against Virgin Blue in 2008.
In that matter, Justice Annabelle Bennett AO ordered that costs be capped for two litigants who successfully challenged Virgin Blue’s policy for travellers with a disability.