Sydney Light Rail Class Action
Mitry Lawyers acted in a claim for private and public nuisance on behalf of hundreds of businesses against Transport for NSW.
On 19 July 2023, Justice Cavanagh in the Supreme Court of NSW found in favour of two of the lead applicants in the Sydney Light Rail Class Action.
That is, the Court found broadly in favour of the claim.
In summary, his Honour found that the interference with the use and enjoyment of their land by those applicants, Hunt Leather Pty Ltd and Ancio Investments Pty Ltd was substantial and unreasonable. In his judgment, Justice Cavanagh explored the design, planning and execution of the Sydney Light Rail project and through very complex analysis concluded that the Government had committed a private nuisance.
A link to the judgment delivered by Justice Cavanagh (with a summary at the end) can be found here: Judgment
What was the Sydney Light Rail Class Action about?
In December 2012, the then NSW Minister for Transport introduced a plan titled ‘Sydney’s Light Rail Future’. The plan projected an integrated light rail line built through the Sydney CBD to Kingsford and Randwick via George Street (Project). It was anticipated that the project would be complete by March 2019. Due to significant delays that have occurred, and recent litigation that has been commenced by Acciona, the Spanish company constructing the line, it is now being reported that the new completed date is expected to be March 2020.
The impact of this construction on businesses along the route of the project has been widespread and devastating. The NSW Government and Transport for NSW was aware that the disruption to the operation of Sydney CBD would be significant, and yet, failed to take reasonable steps to prepare for or mitigate the disturbance caused.
The in globo approach to the construction of the light rail has resulted in extended and ongoing consequences to businesses, with many suffering reduced people traffic, inaccessibility, difficulty in meeting their rental obligations and significantly reduced revenue. Landlords are likewise experiencing a significant decrease in the rental viability of their properties, whilst residents have suffered significant psychological impacts as a result of the disruptive construction works. Businesses, landlords and residents can apply to join the class.
What was the legal claim?
The class action soughtdamages for economic loss as well as for psychiatric suffering of business proprietors, landlords, and residents due to private and public nuisance caused by what are alleged to be unreasonable and avoidable acts or omissions of the defendant, Transport for NSW.
It was argued, amongst other things, that the defendant unnecessarily erected barricades along the entirety of the route of the Project rather than in the 31 zones as promised, failed to take reasonable precautions to minimise or reduce avoidable disruptions to group members, and undertook construction works at an unduly slow pace. The consequences of this unreasonable conduct of the defendant were not inevitable consequences of the Project. The NSW Government failed to adequately warn the business owners and to supervise and manage the project in circumstances where it was reasonably foreseeable and known to them that businesses, landlords and residents would be affected.
The findings of his Honour Justice Cavanagh in relation to the position of the lead applicants is set out above.