Confident Trustee Limited v Garden and Trees Ltd [2017] NZCA 578

Confident Trustee Limited (CTL) entered into a contract with Garden and Trees Limited (Garden and Trees) for Garden and Trees to clear a site prior to earthworks for a residential subdivision development. CTL claimed that the work was running behind schedule so it engaged another contractor to assist, at which point Garden and Trees unilaterally left the site. This was disputed by Garden and Trees, who claimed that it was effectively dismissed by CTL.

Garden and Trees sent an invoice to CTL for work carried out and, when this went unpaid, issued a statutory demand requiring payment of the outstanding amount. Somewhat surprisingly, in the High Court Associate Judge Christiansen refused to set aside the demand, although it was clear there was a factual dispute between the parties about the circumstances in which the contract came to an end.

CTL appealed. The Court of Appeal considered that CTL had raised a genuine and substantial dispute that the debt in question was outstanding: there were significant material conflicts of evidence between the parties, as well as further issues in respect of the quantum of damages claimed and inherent in the claim itself. Accordingly, both the High Court judgment and the statutory demand were set aside.

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.