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Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund v Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust[2015] QCATA 182

Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund v Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust[2015] QCATA 182

CITATION:

Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund v Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust [2015] QCATA 182

PARTIES:

Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund

(Appellant)

v

Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust

(Respondent)

APPLICATION NUMBER:

APL166-15

MATTER TYPE:

Appeals

HEARING DATE:

4 November 2015

HEARD AT:

Brisbane 

DECISION OF:

Senior Member Stilgoe OAM

Member Hughes

DELIVERED ON:

10 December 2015

DELIVERED AT:

Brisbane

ORDERS MADE: 

  1. Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund shall pay Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee  for Pegasus Property Trust’s costs of the appeal and the application for stay on a standard basis calculated on the District Court Scale within 28 days of agreement or assessment.
  2. Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee  for Pegasus Property Trust shall deliver an assessment of its costs to Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund by 11 January 2016.
  3. Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund shall deliver any response to Pegasus’ assessment by 25 January 2016.
  4. If the parties cannot agree on an amount for costs by 8 February 2016, costs shall be determined by an assessor appointed by the Principal Registrar.

CATCHWORDS:

COSTS – whether in the interests of justice to award costs – where unsuccessful appeal by party without standing – where relative strengths of parties’ cases may loom large in later proceedings – where lack of merit in appeal and application for stay – where requiring a successful party to pay all their own costs in meeting arguments almost entirely without merit, by a party without standing, is not in the interests of justice and contrary to statutory mandate to ensure proceedings are conducted speedily, with a minimum of expense and inconvenience

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (QCAT), ss 3, 4, 100, 102

Aon Risk Services Australia Ltd v Australian National University (2009) 239 CLR 175

Body Corporate for Sunnybank v Coming Home Pty Ltd ATF The Coming Home Trust [2014] QCAT 192

Bradlyn Nominees Pty Ltd v Saikovski [2012] QCATA 39

Creek v Raine & Horne Real Estate Mossman [2011] QCATA 226

Fox v Percy (2003) 214 CLR 118

General Steel Industries Inc. v. Commissioner for Railways (NSW) (1964) 112 CLR 125

Kehl v Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland [2010] QCATA 77

Lida Pty Ltd v Miller & Anor [2011] QCATA 219

Ralacom Pty Ltd v Body Corporate for Paradise Island Apartments (No. 2) [2010]

QCAT 412

APPEARANCES and REPRESENTATION (if any):

This matter was heard and determined on the papers pursuant to s 32 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld).

REASONS FOR DECISION

What is this Application about?

  1. [1]
    Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustees for Kingfisher Super Fund unsuccessfully appealed an Adjudicator’s orders against the Body Corporate of Stanley Point CTS 32639, where they own a lot. Mr and Mrs Douglas lacked standing and we found that all but one of their grounds of appeal lacked merit. The remaining ground would have resulted in a minor change to the original orders, had Mr and Mrs Douglas had standing.
  2. [2]
    Having received submissions from the parties, the remaining issue for the Tribunal is whether to award costs.

Do the ‘interests of justice’ require a party to pay another party’s costs?

  1. [3]
    Costs in the Tribunal are not awarded as a matter of course. Each party must pay their own legal costs,[1] unless the ‘interests of justice’ require the Tribunal to order a party to pay the costs of another party.[2]
  2. [4]
    Despite this strong indicator against awarding costs,[3] the Tribunal has a broad discretion to award costs[4] and may have regard to prescribed circumstances.[5] Relevantly, the relative strengths of the parties’ cases may loom large when considering the costs of proceedings in later stages,[6] such as the costs of an appeal.
  3. [5]
    The apposite circumstance here is the lack of merit in most of Mr and Mrs Douglas’ appeal and the related application for a stay. Although the Tribunal did not act to summarily strike out the appeal before the substantive hearing, this does not mean that the appeal and application for a stay had a reasonable basis. The courts exercise the summary jurisdiction to dismiss claims with caution, to ensure that parties are not improperly deprived of the opportunity to present their case at a proper hearing.[7]   The Tribunal takes the same cautious approach.
  4. [6]
    Mr and Mrs Douglas filed no fewer than 40 pages of submissions (plus attachments), many devoted to allegations of denial of natural justice, false and misleading conduct, failing to give clear reasons and bias. These allegations proved groundless.
  5. [7]
    In addition, despite Mr and Mrs Douglas’ appeal acknowledging the right to appeal is on a question of law only, many of their submissions challenged findings of fact open on the evidence. An appeal is not an opportunity to re-argue the case.[8]
  6. [8]
    Moreover, Mr and Mrs Douglas lacked standing to bring the appeal. Mr and Mrs Douglas persisted with their appeal despite this being raised as an issue as early as the hearing of the application for stay. They thereby failed to act in their own interests by proceeding with an inherently flawed application:

The statutory regime under which QCAT operates places obligations upon parties themselves to take care in their dealings with Tribunal matters, and to act in their own interests. QCAT’s resources for the resolution of disputes are in high demand and serve, as the High Court has recently observed in relation to court resources, ‘…the public as a whole, not merely the parties to the proceedings’. Finality in litigation is highly desirable, because any further action beyond the hearing can be costly and unnecessarily burdensome on the parties.[9]

  1. [9]
    By pursuing an appeal without standing and with little merit, Mr and Mrs Douglas not only failed to act in their own interests, they also impinged upon the Tribunal’s limited resources and required Pegasus to expend time and resources to respond.
  2. [10]
    The Tribunal is mandated to ensure proceedings are conducted speedily, with a minimum of expense and inconvenience.[10] The Tribunal must encourage the early and economical resolution of disputes.[11] The conduct of cases with little merit, by parties without standing, is contrary to this statutory mandate and is not to be encouraged.
  3. [11]
    Although Mr and Mrs Douglas’ appeal was almost entirely without merit, their issues were sufficiently complex to warrant Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust engaging legal representation. Requiring a successful party to pay all their own costs in meeting arguments almost entirely without merit, by a party without standing, is not in the interests of justice: it forces the successful party to incur costs pointlessly.[12]
  4. [12]
    The interests of justice warrant that Mr and Mrs Douglas pay Pegasus’ costs of the appeal and the application for stay on a standard basis on the District Court scale.  
  5. [13]
    The appropriate Orders are therefore:
    1. Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund shall pay Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust’s costs of the appeal and the application for stay on a standard basis calculated on the District Court Scale within 28 days of agreement or assessment.
    2. Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust shall deliver an assessment of its costs to Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund by 11 January 2016.
    3. Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund shall deliver any response to Pegasus’ assessment by 25 January 2016.
    4. If the parties cannot agree on an amount for costs by 8 February 2016, costs shall be determined by an assessor appointed by the Principal Registrar.

Footnotes

[1] Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), s 100.

[2]  Ibid, s 102.

[3] Ralacom Pty Ltd v Body Corporate for Paradise Island Apartments (No. 2) [2010] QCAT 412 at [29].

[4] Body Corporate for Sunnybank v Coming Home Pty Ltd ATF The Coming Home Trust [2014] QCAT 192 at [16].

[5] Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), s 102(3).

[6] Kehl v Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland [2010] QCATA 77 at [10];

[7] General Steel Industries Inc. v Commissioner for Railways (NSW) (1964) 112 CLR 125 per Barwick CJ at 10.

[8] Lida Pty Ltd v Miller & Anor [2011] QCATA 219 at [12]; Bradlyn Nominees Pty Ltd v. Saikovski [2012] QCATA 39 at [9].

[9] Creek v Raine & Horne Real Estate Mossman [2011] QCATA 226 at [13], citing Aon Risk Services Australia Ltd v Australian National University (2009) 239 CLR 175 and Fox v Percy (2003) 214 CLR 118 at 128 per Gleeson CJ, Kirby and Gummow JJ.

[10] Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), ss 3, 4.

[11]  Ibid, s 4(b).

[12] Ralacom Pty Ltd v. Body Corporate for Paradise Island Apartments (No. 2) [2010] QCAT 412 at [56].

Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund v Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Alex & Gail Douglas as Trustee for Kingfisher Super Fund v Pegasus Equity Pty Ltd as Trustee for Pegasus Property Trust

  • MNC:

    [2015] QCATA 182

  • Court:

    QCATA

  • Judge(s):

    Senior Member Stilgoe OAM, Member Hughes

  • Date:

    10 Dec 2015

Appeal Status

Please note, appeal data is presently unavailable for this judgment. This judgment may have been the subject of an appeal.

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