Judgments and Orders\Courts & Judges; Judgments and Orders\Reasons for Decision; Courts & Judges\Judgments and Orders; Reasons for Decision\duty to give; Duty to give reasons
The Duty to Give Reasons
35 Ordinarily, it is the duty of a Judge to state his or her reasons for decision and failure to do so may constitute an error of law: Garrett v Nicholson (1999) 21 WAR 226 per Owen J at 248. In determining whether in a particular case there is a duty and the extent of that duty, regard should be had to the function to be served by the giving of reasons: Soulemezis v Dudley (Holdings) Pty Ltd (1987) 10 NSWLR 247 per Mahoney JA at 270.
36 Where there is a right of appeal, the function of reasons is to allow an appeal court to determine whether the decision was based on an appealable error. In addition to securing a right of appeal, the obligation to give adequate reasons is an aspect of procedural fairness to a litigant who is entitled to know why it is that he or she has been successful or unsuccessful. Thus, it is sufficient if the reasoning process which led to a result is disclosed with sufficient certainty to enable a litigant to know why it is that the result ensued and to ensure that the statutory right of appeal has been secured: Garrett v Nicholson (supra) per Owen J at 248. If that is achieved there is no additional requirement that every fact relevant to the ultimate decision or the detailed chain of reasoning be set out or every submission be addressed: Soulemezis v Dudly Holdings Pty Ltd (supra).
37 In determining the sufficiency of reasons, it is necessary to look at the reasons as a whole, and if necessary in the context of the evidence, to see if they give the sense of what was intended in a way that achieves the required function and purpose: Garrett v Nicholson (supra) per Owen J at 248; Charleston v Smith  WASCA 261 per Malcolm CJ at 15.
38 As noted by Meagher JA in Beale v GIO of New South Wales (1997) 48 NSWLR 430 at 443, the content of the obligation is not the same for every judicial decision and no mechanical formula can be given for determining what reasons are required. Meagher JA went on to give a useful description of the fundamental elements of a statement of reasons. He said (at 443-444):
Secondly, a judge should set out any material findings of fact and any conclusions or ultimate findings of fact reached ... Where one set of evidence is accepted over a conflicting set of significant evidence, the trial judge should set out his findings as to how he comes to accept the one over the other. But that is not to say that a judge must make explicit findings on each disputed piece of evidence, especially if the inference as to what is found is appropriately clear: ...
Thirdly, a judge should provide reasons for making the relevant findings of fact (and conclusions) and reasons in applying the law to the facts found. Those reasons or the process of reasoning should be understandable and preferably logical as well."
39 Insofar as the causation issue related to whether the delay in the onset of the low back pain was inconsistent with accident caused damage, that was primarily a factual issue requiring the resolution of a conflict of evidence. Insofar as it related to the range of potential triggers, that is a question of mixed law and fact. The High Court has in a number of recent decisions considered what is required for a plaintiff to make out a prima facie case of causal connection: Bennett v Minister for Community Welfare (1992) 176 CLR 408 per Gaudron J at 420-421, per McHugh J at 428; Chappel v Hart (1998) 195 CLR 232 per McHugh J at 244; Rosenberg v Percival (2001) 205 CLR 434 per Gummow J at 461.
40 Gaudron J said in Bennett v Minister of Community Welfare (supra) at 420-421: