As I have often said to clients, in many large claims, what is done post-settlement in terms of investment + use of the settlement funds is as important, if not more so, than the precise quantum achIeved.

An interesting and recurrent issue is the question of the capacity for the trustee, in cases in which the client is either a child or otherwise unable to manage their affairs, to exercise discretion as to how to utilise/expend (rather than invest) funds for the benefit of the client post-settlement.

An interesting recent case in our District Court, deals with the problems that can arise in this respect, if such trustee is the Public Trustee and the court is asking to specifically approve funds’ use.  The case is  BH by her next friend VH -v- AME HOSPITALS PTY LTD & ORS [2010] WADC 47, which can be found at the Court’s website.  

The case concerned an application for approval by the Court of the Trustee’s expenditure upon improvements/modifications to a home for a catastrophically injured child (cerebral palsy related to birth trauma).  Approval was (with some hiccups) granted, though the whole process seemed remarkably tortuous and did not suggest ideal project management had occurred. 

It is worth noting that the Court’s involvement in this ‘approval’ process would not generally arise, if the relevant settlement proceeds were not held by the Public Trustee, but rather with a private approved trustee.