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Premier Engineering Pty Ltd v Launderers Pty Ltd t/as Southport Steam Laundry[2016] QCATA 186

Premier Engineering Pty Ltd v Launderers Pty Ltd t/as Southport Steam Laundry[2016] QCATA 186

CITATION:

Premier Engineering Pty Ltd v Launderers Pty Ltd t/as Southport Steam Laundry [2016] QCATA 186

PARTIES:

Premier Engineering Pty Ltd

(Applicant/Appellant)

v

Launderers Pty Ltd t/as Southport Steam Laundry

(Respondent)

APPLICATION NUMBER:

APL184 -16

MATTER TYPE:

Appeals

HEARING DATE:

On the papers

HEARD AT:

Brisbane

DECISION OF:

Senior Member Stilgoe OAM

DELIVERED ON:

16 November 2016

DELIVERED AT:

Brisbane

ORDERS MADE:

  1. Leave to appeal refused.

CATCHWORDS:

APPEAL – LEAVE TO APPEAL – GENERAL PRINCIPLES – INTERFERENCE WITH THE FINDINGS OF FACT – PROOF AND EVIDENCE – where appellant fabricated equipment for respondent – where plans for equipment not finalised – where respondent terminated contract – where appellant sought payment for work done – where tribunal found no obligation to pay – whether grounds for leave to appeal

APPEAL – LEAVE TO APPEAL – PROCEDURE – CIVIL PROCEEDINGS IN STATE AND TERRITORIY COURTS – where appellant claims tribunal interrupted presentation of case – whether tribunal afforded appellant natural justice – whether grounds for leave to appeal

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld)

Chambers v Jobling (1986) 7 NSWLR 1

Dearman v Dearman (1908) 7 CLR 549

Australian Broadcasting Commission v Bond (1990) 170 CLR 321

Fox v Percy (2003) 214 CLR 118

Pickering v McArthur [2005] QCA 294

Waterford v The Commonwealth (1987) 163 CLR 54

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) (QCAT Act).

REASONS FOR DECISION

  1. [1]
    Launderers Pty Ltd t/as Southport Steam Laundry runs a commercial laundry. In 2012, it bought a new washing machine. It needed a new tipper to work with the new washer. Southport Steam Laundry needed the tipper to be operational by March 2013. It arranged for Premier Engineering Pty Ltd to provide a quote for the design and construction of a new tipper.
  2. [2]
    Premier Engineering worked on the design. It also started building the tipper. On 3 June 2013, Premier Engineering advised Southport Steam Laundry that the tipper still had some inherent design problems. On 28 June 2013, Southport Steam Laundry terminated Premier Engineering’s involvement with the tipper.
  3. [3]
    Premier Engineering sent Southport Steam Laundry an invoice for $22,000. Southport Steam Laundry did not pay, so Premier Engineering filed a claim in the tribunal. The tribunal dismissed the claim because it found that Premier Engineering had not established that Southport Steam Laundry contracted for the construction of the tipper.
  4. [4]
    Premier Engineering wants to appeal that decision. Because this is an appeal from a decision of the tribunal in its minor civil disputes jurisdiction, leave is necessary.[1] Leave to appeal will usually be granted where there is a reasonable argument that the decision is attended by error, and an appeal is necessary to correct a substantial injustice to the applicant caused by that error.[2]
  5. [5]
    Premier Engineering says the tribunal failed to review an affidavit of Scott Garrett or allow it to draw the affidavit to the tribunal’s attention. It says the tribunal failed to give Premier Engineering ‘due process’ and natural justice because it did not allow it to make its case. It says the tribunal erred in fact and law in finding that Southport Steam Laundry did not provide approval for Premier Engineering to proceed with the design, that there was no contractual entitlement to seek the amount claimed, and that it was not entitled to the amount claimed.

Did the tribunal fail to allow Premier Engineering to refer to the affidavit of Scott Garrett?

  1. [6]
    The tribunal read Mr Garrett’s affidavit.[3] The tribunal gave Mr Roulston, for Premier Engineering, the opportunity to refer to the affidavit. The tribunal was not in error.
  2. [7]
    Even if Mr Roulston had specifically drawn the tribunal’s attention to Mr Garrett’s affidavit, I am not persuaded that the tribunal would have formed a different view. Annexures F and G to Mr Garrett’s affidavit are not, as Premier Engineering submits, admissions that a contract to manufacture exists.
  3. [8]
    In Annexure F, Mr Hinchcliffe, agent for Southport Steam Laundry, suggests another site visit before Premier Engineering produces the final drawings. At that stage, Mr Garrett is clearly not convinced that the plans will work.
  4. [9]
    In Annexure G, Mr Roulston tells Mr Hinchcliffe that the ‘conveyor is almost done’. In the context of the previous emails, though, that could simply mean that the plans of the conveyor were done, not the construction of the conveyor.

Did the tribunal fail to provide natural justice?

  1. [10]
    Premier Engineering says that the transcript shows Mr Roulston did not finish his sentence on twelve occasions. It says the use of ‘---‘ at the end of a sentence demonstrates this. It says that the tribunal interrupted Mr Roulston when he was speaking.
  2. [11]
    Even if that is the effect of ‘---‘ in the transcript, I am not persuaded that the interruptions by the tribunal amounted to a failure to provide natural justice. About half of these ‘interruptions’ occurred when the tribunal was discussing procedural matters with the parties. Mr Roulston interrupted the tribunal almost as often as the tribunal interrupted Mr Roulston.
  3. [12]
    The tribunal asked Mr Roulston, for Premier Engineering, how the parties contracted, what the contract was, and where it was formed.[4] It gave Mr Roulston the opportunity to respond in detail. The tribunal was not in error.
  4. [13]
    The tribunal referred to Premier Engineering’s quote for the work[5] and an invoice[6], telling Mr Roulston that was not enough to establish a contract. Mr Roulston then told the tribunal that:[7]

‘It was discussed that we would produce that design concept and then a set of drawings for the workshop and then we’d proceed with the manufacture once it was all agreed on’

  1. [14]
    The tribunal asked Mr Roulston to show where someone says ‘go ahead’ and Mr Roulston referred to an email, after finding it in his papers[8]. The tribunal asked, specifically, if Southport Steam Laundry emailed confirmation to proceed[9]. Mr Roulston said he did not know.[10] Mr Roulston continued with his evidence. He said that there was a lot of verbal communication[11] and he couldn’t see why Premier Engineering would go ahead if there was no approval.[12]
  2. [15]
    The tribunal told Mr Roulston it was ‘trying to squeeze the lemon’.[13] I interpret that to mean that the tribunal was giving Mr Roulston every opportunity to make his case.
  3. [16]
    The tribunal asked Mr Roulston if there was anything else he wanted to say[14]. Mr Roulston did not want to address the tribunal further.
  4. [17]
    I am not persuaded that the tribunal failed to give Premier Engineering procedural fairness.

Did the tribunal err in fact and law?

  1. [18]
    Findings of fact by a Tribunal will not usually be disturbed on appeal if the facts inferred by the Tribunal, upon which the finding is based, are capable of supporting its conclusions, and there is evidence capable of supporting any inferences underlining it.[15]
  1. [19]
    An appellate tribunal may interfere, however, if the conclusion at first instance is ‘contrary to compelling inferences’ in the case.[16] There is no error of law simply in making a wrong finding of fact unless there is no evidence to support that finding[17].
  1. [20]
    Premier Engineering relies on a detailed analysis of an email from Southport Steam Laundry dated 28 June 2013 to support its case that the Southport Steam Laundry did, in fact, authorise the work.
  1. [21]
    That email is one in a series. The tribunal, when reading the series of emails as a whole, found that Southport Steam Laundry never authorised the drawings and, therefore, could not have authorised the construction of a piece of equipment based on the unapproved drawings.
  1. [22]
    As the tribunal observed,[18] Premier Engineering went ahead without a commitment from the customer. The oral evidence of the parties supports that finding. The tribunal’s findings can be supported by the evidence and I can find no compelling reason to come to a different view.
  1. [23]
    There is no reasonably arguable case that the tribunal was in error. Leave to appeal should be refused.

Footnotes

[1] QCAT Act s 142(3)(a)(i).

[2] Pickering v McArthur [2005] QCA 294 at [3].

[3] Transcript page 1-4, lines 41 – 42; page 1-6, lines 9 – 10.

[4] Transcript page 1-7, lines 29 – 30.

[5] Transcript page 1-8, lines 27 – 29.

[6] Transcript page 1-8, lines 33 – 47.

[7] Transcript page 1-9, lines 1 – 4.

[8] Transcript page 1-9, lines 13 – 29.

[9] Transcript page 1-9, lines 31 – 32.

[10] Transcript page 1-9, line 34.

[11] Transcript page 1-10, line 1.

[12] Transcript page 1-14, lines 9 – 11.

[13] Transcript page 1-15, lines 9 – 10.

[14] Transcript page 1-15, lines 38 – 39.

[15] Dearman v Dearman (1908) 7 CLR 549 at 561; Fox v Percy (2003) 214 CLR 118 at 125-126.

[16] Chambers v Jobling (1986) 7 NSWLR 1 at 10.

[17] Waterford v The Commonwealth (1987) 163 CLR 54 at 77; Australian Broadcasting Commission v Bond (1990) 170 CLR 321 at 341.

[18] Transcript page 1-13, lines 12 – 13.

Close

Editorial Notes

  • Published Case Name:

    Premier Engineering Pty Ltd v Launderers Pty Ltd t/as Southport Steam Laundry

  • Shortened Case Name:

    Premier Engineering Pty Ltd v Launderers Pty Ltd t/as Southport Steam Laundry

  • MNC:

    [2016] QCATA 186

  • Court:

    QCATA

  • Judge(s):

    Senior Member Stilgoe OAM

  • Date:

    16 Nov 2016

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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