Australia: Land Court in Queensland has sole discretion to determine whether to award costs

IN BRIEF - FORMER LANDOWNERS' CONDUCT FOUND TO BE UNREASONABLE

The case of Mahoney & Ors v Chief Executive, Department of Transport and Main Roads (No. 5) [2016] QLC 36 concerned applications for costs made by the Chief Executive, Department of Transport and Main Roads in the Land Court against John Mahoney, Kathryn Mahoney and the estate of Austin Mahoney in relation to two hearings which took place in 2012 and 2015 for the compulsory acquisition of the former landowners' land.

The Court considered the legislative framework within which the Court may order costs under section 34 of the Land Court Act 2000 and section 27 of the Acquisition of Land Act 1967. It was determined that the provisions of the Acquisition of Land Act prevailed over the provisions for costs in the Land Court Act.

The Court awarded costs to the Department for the 2015 hearing only as it found that the former landowners' conduct which delayed the resolution of the matter was unreasonable.

AWARD OF COSTS FOUND TO BE IN THE COURT'S DISCRETION AND TO BE EXERCISED JUDICIALLY ON THE BASIS OF REASONS THAT WERE JUSTIFIABLE

In considering the application made by the Department, the Court observed (at [5]) that it "should not be bound by any presumptive rule or principle in exercising its discretion but must consider all of the facts and circumstances of the case."

Section 27(1) of the Acquisition of Land Act conferred the Court with a discretion to award costs within the bounds of section 27(2) of the Act. The Court was required to exercise its discretion judicially on the basis of reasons that were not arbitrary and could be justified.

The Court relevantly considered the decision in Mio Art Pty Ltd & Ors v Brisbane City Council [2010] QLC 86 which outlined at [10] the following matters that were relevant to the exercise of the discretion by the Court:

  • There had to be a strong justification for awarding costs against a claimant where the effect of the costs order would "erode the benefit of the just compensation recovered as a consequence of the Court's determination."
  • The quantum of the claims as compared with the amount of the Court's determination for compensation and whether the claimant had acted unreasonably and unnecessarily to force the authority into litigation or "pursued a vexatious, dishonest or grossly exaggerated claim".

DEPARTMENT SOUGHT COSTS OF AND INCIDENTAL TO THE 2012 AND 2015 HEARINGS AS THE DEPARTMENT ACHIEVED TOTAL SUCCESS AND THE FORMER LANDOWNERS DID NOT ACHIEVE AN OUTCOME WHICH WAS ANY BETTER THAN THE DEPARTMENT'S SETTLEMENT OFFER

In 2012, the Department successfully appealed to the Land Appeal Court the original decision made by the Land Court in relation to whether the "San Sebastian principle" applied. The former landowners were refused leave to appeal in the Court of Appeal.

In December 2012, the Department made an offer to the former landowners to settle the matter for the sum of $345,000. The former landowners did not accept the settlement offer and disputed the value of the compensation.

Following a number of attempts to resolve the matter, the Department had to bring an application to the Land Court in 2015 in order to progress the litigation. The former landowners responded with their own application to the Land Court disputing the amount of the compensation.

Both applications were heard by the Court in December 2015. The Department was successful at the hearing and sought its costs of and incidental to the 2012 hearing incurred after August 2012, and also its costs of and incidental to its application in 2015 on the basis that the Department was successful and the outcome achieved by the former landowners was no better than the December 2012 offer.

COURT FOUND THAT AN AWARD OF COSTS FOR THE 2012 HEARING WOULD DEPRIVE FORMER LANDOWNERS THE FULL BENEFIT OF THE COMPENSATION

The Department submitted that the general rule in relation to costs following the event should be applied as the 2012 hearing involved a determination of a legal question rather than a conventional hearing of competing valuations which was more akin to a civil trial. The Department further submitted that the former landowners' case was weak to further support its submission.

The former landowners refuted the claim and submitted that their case was not weak. The former landowners further submitted that a lengthy investigation was undertaken and there was difficulty to obtain information. It was emphasised by the former landowners that considerable efforts were made to deal with the dispute outside of the Court process.

The Court accepted that the legal question was raised in an attempt to limit the proceedings as opposed to any vexatious purpose. The parties had acted genuinely and were not purposely unreasonable to force the other into litigation. In this instance, the Court considered it inappropriate to treat the dispute as if it was a civil case.

The Court did not make an order as to costs in relation to the 2012 hearing as in "making the order sought would deprive the applicants of the full benefit of the compensation which has been determined to be just and reasonable." (At [29].)

COURT AWARDED COSTS TO THE DEPARTMENT IN RELATION TO THE 2015 HEARING AS IT FOUND THAT THE UNREASONABLE CONDUCT OF THE FORMER LANDOWNERS WAS ENOUGH TO ERODE THE BENEFIT OF THE COMPENSATION

The Department submitted that the former landowners' dispute on the compensation amount was unreasonable and had forced it into litigation.

The basis of the former landowners' rebuttal of the Department's claim was that they were seeking to have the matter resolved out of Court and were focusing on obtaining a fair compensation. The former landowners did not consider that their conduct was capable of forcing the Department to pursue its application in 2015.

The Court found that the 2015 hearing was distinct from the 2012 hearing. It was necessary for the Department to bring on an application to resolve the matter because the former landowners were delaying a resolution based on an understanding which was "without merit and could properly be characterised as unreasonable." (At [32].)

The Court held that the Department had conducted its application in a proper and efficient manner and found that "the unreasonableness of the applicants' conduct in the 2015 applications is sufficient to weigh decisively against the erosion of the compensation awarded." (At [33].) The former landowners were ordered to pay the Department's costs of and incidental to the applications heard in 2015.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Ian Wright
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions