Posts Tagged HCA

Undertaking as to damages must not be a ritual or a formality

 

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Parties seeking injunctions are required to offer an undertaking as to damages as the price for the injunction. All too often the undertaking is given lightly and without an understanding of the potential consequences.  If the person against whom the injunction is granted succeeds at trial and has suffered loss or damage the consequences can be severe. The inquiry is not whether the actual loss suffered was foreseen at the time the undertaking was given, but is whether loss of a kind actually sustained could have been foreseen.

In Love v Thwaites [2014] VSCA 56 the Court of Appeal upheld a trial judge’s order that the party who obtained an injunction pay damages and interest of more than $5,000,000 pursuant to an undertaking.

This disastrous outcome was the consequence of the appellant seeking and being granted an interlocutory injunction restraining the Roads Corporation from demolishing a property.

The appellant gave the usual undertaking as to damages. During the proceeding the appellant had been asked to consent to the discharge of the injunction but the requests were refused.

After the appellant’s proceeding was dismissed and the injunction discharged there was then a trial to determine the damages suffered by the Roads Corporation resulting from the granting of the injunction. The trial judge[1] set out the principles governing the assessment of damages as follows:

“30. In Davinski Nominees Pty Ltd v I&A Bowler Holdings Limited, Kaye J described the basis for the assessment of damages on an undertaking to the court as uncontroversial: damages flowing directly from the injunction and which could have been foreseen when the injunction was granted, following the decisions of the High Court in Air Express Limited v Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd and European Bank Limited and Robb Evans of Robb Evans & Associates.

31.  In Air Express, Aickin J held that in a proceeding of an equitable nature ‘the damages should be those that flow directly from the injunction and which could have been foreseen when the injunction was granted’.

On appeal, Barwick CJ agreed with the reasoning of Aickin J. Gibbs J identified the generally accepted view to be that ‘the damages must be confined to loss which is the natural consequence of the injunction under the circumstances of which the party obtaining the injunction has notice’ adding that the party seeking to enforce the undertaking must show that the making of the order was a cause without which the damage would not have been suffered’.

Stephen J referred to the court having the power, as far as monetary compensation allows, to make good the harm of which the grant of the injunction was a cause and that but for it he would not have suffered. Mason J said generally speaking, so long as the claim for damages is not trivial or trifling, an enquiry should be directed and the defendant will be entitled to recover the loss which is the natural consequence of the grant of the injunction.

The causal connection between the damage and the injunction is to be identified from the purpose for which the undertaking as to damages is designed to serve. That object is to protect a party from damage sustained in the event that it emerges that the plaintiff is not entitled to the relief sought. Its purpose is not to protect the defendant from damage otherwise sustained.

32.  In European Bank, the High Court, in a joint judgment, affirmed Air Express, restating the significance of the nature of the undertaking. It is not a contract between parties or some other cause of action upon which a party could sue, but is given to the court for enforcement by the court. The joint judgment emphasised the phrase ‘which could have been foreseen’.

It is well established that for damage to be reasonably foreseeable it need only be damage of a type or character that is foreseeable or damage of a type or character that could not be considered unlikely.Roads Corporation submitted that the tortious concept ‘reasonable foreseeability’ is a wider concept than the contractual ‘reasonable contemplation’.

The High Court in European Bank makes it clear that the inquiry is not whether the actual loss suffered was foreseen at the time the undertaking was given, but is whether loss of a kind actually sustained could have been foreseen. “

(citations omitted)

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. The Court accepted that the concept of mitigation of damage applied (at least by analogy) in this case.

Tate JA said at [62]:

“While there is no suggestion that the usual undertaking was here given lightly, the consequences that have flowed from the failure of Mr Love to make out his case at trial have been significant. In my view, these consequences provide a salutary lesson to practitioners and their clients to appreciate the conditions governing the grant of an interlocutory injunction. The usual undertaking carries serious risks; it would be wholly erroneous to view it as no more than a ritual or a formality.”

[1] Love v Thwaites (No. 4) [2012] VSC 521

 

 

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Proprietary estoppel – estopped party does not have to disprove reliance

 

There is a translation key(widget)  on this blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

 

The High Court has rejected the notion that the onus of proof in relation to detrimental reliance can shift to the party said to be estopped. In Sidhu v Van Dyke [2014] HCA 19 0the Court had to consider the sufficiency of proof of detrimental reliance required to given rise to an equitable estoppel (proprietary estoppel).

The appellant and his wife owned land as joint tenants.

The trial judge found that the appellant had promised to give the respondent part of the land owned by him and his wife once that land was subdivided.

The appellant and the respondent formed a relationship which resulted in the respondent’s husband leaving her.

The respondent did not seek a property settlement from her husband because of the promises made by the appellant.

The trial judge accepted that respondent had worked on the land and gave up opportunities for employment and that these activities might  be sufficient to amount to detrimental reliance for the purpose of an equitable estoppel; however, Her Honour concluded that the respondent may well have done all or most of those things in any event.

This conclusion was based on answers given by the respondent in the course of cross-examination. The trial judge also held that it was not reasonable for the respondent to rely on a promise of a transfer of land when  performance depended on the land being subdivided and the consent of the appellant’s wife.

The Court of Appeal upheld the respondent’s contention that the trial judge erred in holding that it was unreasonable to rely on the promises.

The Court of Appeal also held that the onus of proof in relation to detrimental reliance shifted to the party said to be estopped (ie the male appellant) where inducement by the promise could be inferred from the conduct of the claimant (ie the respondent).

The Court of Appeal held that an award of equitable compensation measured by reference to the value of the respondent’s disappointed expectation was the appropriate form of relief, being the value of the land at the date of judgment.

The High Court rejected the notion that the onus of proof in relation to detrimental reliance shifted: reliance was a fact that had to be found and not imputed on the basis of evidence that fell short of proof of the fact; the respondent at all times bore the legal burden of proving that she had been induced to rely upon the appellant’s promises.

The Court said that the real question was the appropriate inference to be drawn from the whole of the evidence. The Court also held that the evidence established reliance.

As to the relief, the High Court said that “this category of equitable estoppel serves to vindicate the expectations of the represented against a party who seek unconscionably to resile from an expectation he or she has created”. See: French CJ, Keifel, Bell and Keane JJ at [77].

Had  the respondent been induced to make a relatively small, readily quantifiable monetary outlay on the faith of the appellant’s assurances, then it might not be unconscionable for the appellant to resile from his promises to the respondent on condition that he reimburse her for the outlay.

However,  the  Court decided that this case was one to which the observations of Nettle JA in Donis v Donis (2007 19 VR 577, at 588-589 were apposite:

“[H]ere, the detriment suffered is of a kind and extent that involves life-changing decisions with irreversible consequences of a profoundly personal nature…beyond the measure of money and such that the equity raised by the promisor’s conduct can only be accounted for by the substantial fulfillment of the assumption upon which the respondent’s actions were based.”

 

 

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$1,000,000 in damages for loss of sperm even though purchaser not out of pocket

There is a translation key (widget) on the mirrored blog for ease of reading for non-English speaking members of the public or professionals. The mirrored blog can be found at http://roberthaybarrister.blogspot.com.au/

 

A wise senior building barrister once said to me that in analysing a legal problem you should “always start with the money” – that is analyse what methodology underlies  or underpins the claim for damages.

 

Too often little thought is given to how damages should be calculated before a proceeding is commenced.

In December 2013 the High Court in Clark v Macourt [2013] HCA 56  gave a decision concerning damages in a breach of contract case that has caused much discussion.

A person who provided assisted reproductive technology services to patients purchased the assets and practice of a company providing similar services.

The assets included a stock of frozen donated sperm.

A guarantor guaranteed the vendor’s obligations under the contract.

The vendor warranted that the identification of donors of the sperm complied with specified guidelines; however, of the stock of sperm delivered, 1,996 straws which the purchaser would have expected to be able to use were not as warranted and were unusable.

The vendor could not buy suitable replacement sperm in Australia but could in the USA.

The primary judge found that buying 1,996 straws of replacement sperm from the American supplier would have cost about $1 million at the time the contract was breached. The purchase price for the assets (including the stock of frozen donated sperm) was less than $400,000. The purchaser could not have made any profit from the frozen donated sperm because ethically she could not charge, and in fact had not charged, any patient a fee for using donated sperm greater than the amount the purchaser had outlaid to acquire it.

The question was,  how should the purchaser’s  damages for breach of warranty be fixed?     The primary judge gave judgment against the vendor and the guarantor for the costs  incurred in purchasing replacement sperm from the USA.

This was overturned by the NSW Court of Appeal which held that the purchaser had avoided any loss she would have suffered by purchasing replacement sperm and had charged each patient a fee which covered the costs of buying the sperm.

The High Court of Australia held 4:1  – that the appeal should be allowed and reinstated the decision of the primary judge with the consequence that the vendor’s loss and therefore the damages were $1 million.

The methodology underlying the decision was entirely uncontroversial:   the principle according to which damages for breach of contract are awarded is that the damages should put the promisee in the same situation, so far as money can do it as it would have been in if the broken promise had been performed.

Damages are assessed at the date of the breach. The case emphasises the importance of carefully considering  how the claim is pleaded:   in this case at the date of the breach the purchaser was in the position where she had to buy a $1 million worth of sperm to replace what she had lost.

 

My clerk can be contacted via this link for bookings  http://www.greenslist.com.au/

 

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