New Zealand Law Society - Landmark tort decision

Landmark tort decision

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Auckland University Law Lecturer Nikki Chamberlain says that the recent decision Henderson v Walker [2019] 2184 is a landmark decision and a very important development in the tort law of public disclosure of private facts.

It is the first case in New Zealand that has a finding on this tort.

The case involves a liquidator and former director of a group of companies. One on the companies was put into liquidation. During a stay of the proceedings the liquidator obtained the laptop and a tape drive of the company in liquidation. The laptop contained private, privileged and personal information that was forwarded to the official assignee.

Ms Chamberlain says that the decision contains three important messages that liquidators should be aware of.

When a stay is in operation the liquidators need to be aware of that and to effectively ‘down tools’, as the liquidator’s powers have not yet kicked in.

Regardless of whether the action is stayed or active and private information is found (not related to the liquidation), they must ensure that they don’t give that information to third parties. Possible breaches place stringent obligations on liquidators.

The case contained judicial comments relating to gossiping. Liquidators must ensure that they remain professional in their interactions as liquidators.

Listen to Nikki Chamberlain and Rewiti Kohere discuss Henderson v Walker on Vimeo.

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