Steedman v Greater Western Water Corporation: does the Limitations Act 1958 (Vic) apply?

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Case citation: Steedman v Greater Western Water Corporation [2023] VCAT 128

Case Note:


  • Moira Steedman, the applicant, claimed damages against Greater Western for loss and damage under section 157 of the Water Act 1989 (Vic) (Water Act) because of a flow of water from the sewerage framework of the Greater Western Water Corporation that occurred in 2015.
  • She commenced a proceeding in VCAT on 12 April 2021 seeking damages of $207,204.85.
  • The Respondent, Greater Western, argued that the claim was invalid based on the 6-year limitation period set by ss 5(1)(a) or 5(1)(d) of the Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (Vic) (Limitations Act).
  • The President of VCAT, Quigley J, and Wilson DP, ruled that the claim was not invalid as the Limitations Act did not apply here.

Procedural History

  • Claim commenced in VCAT on 12 April 2021. The date of the hearing was 27 May 2022, and the date of order was 9 February 2023.

Legal Reasoning

  • Why was the claim still valid under the Limitations Act?
  • Two conflicting Supreme Court decisions applied here: Lanigan v Circus Oz & Ors [2022] VSC 35 (binding) and Ajaimi v Giswick Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 131 (distinguished on facts) as precedents;
    • Lanigan – Limitations Act – it was found that VCAT is not a ‘court’ for the purpose of the definition of ‘action’ in s 3(1) of the Limitations Act, which is that an action “includes any proceedings in a court of law.” It was also found that Lanigan’s claim was not an ‘action founded on tort’ as per s 5(1), as she had invoked a statutory cause of action the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 
    • Ajaimi – a breach of contract claim under the Retail Leases Act 2003 (Vic) brought in VCAT was applicable to s 5(1) of the Limitations Act as it fulfilled criteria of ‘action’ in s 3(1) of the Act, which means they found the definition was broad enough to include VCAT, a Tribunal, as a ‘court of law’.
  • Lanigan was binding, as Steedman’s case also invoked a statutory cause of action, however distinguished from Ajaimi, as Steedman’s case was not a breach of contract.
  • VCAT held that that the Applicant’s claim, and generally any claim under the Water Act 1989 (Vic), is neither an action founded on tort nor one for damages for breach of statutory duty, and so the 6-year limitation under s 5(1) of the Limitation of Actions Act did not apply here.

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