Tighe Newton Trucking wins costs case


Communications and relationship breakdown leads to court action

Tighe Newton Trucking wins costs case
Judge Driver says the case should have been settled out of court

 

A subcontracting dispute last year has cost two parties $8,000 in a Federal Circuit Court case this month.

Alleging unconscionable conduct, Tighe Newton Trucking gained the sum for costs in a case marked by a breakdown in communications and understanding related to consignments of Crown forklifts.

However, according to judge Rolf Driver’s finding, subcontractor NT Hauliers and its MD, Bruce Meiklejohn, did not appear and had no representation during the hearing.

Without contrary evidence, the breakdown in the relationship appears to have begun when Tighe mistakenly assumed two of three invoices for the same amount were duplicates and an invoice was paid late.

Tighe had assumed that it had a credit account with NT Hauliers, which advised that, as Tighe had not agreed to NT Hauliers’ credit terms and conditions, it was on 14-day terms.

More consignments were transacted but a disconnect between the firms that saw shifting NT Hauliers assertions as to what payment schemes and penalties were now in play saw three forklifts "warehoused due to an account problem".

By this stage, communication was conducted by email only at NT Hauliers behest.

Tighe made certain payments but these were "not accepted" until payment of nearly $17,000 in interest was made.

Tighe’s lawyers then sent letters demanding the forklifts be delivered with the threat of legal action to follow if they were not moved, including a draft application to the court to start proceedings before a different judge.

Though this was initially rejected, the forlkifts were eventually released.

In awarding costs, the judge notes:

  • Tighe "made every effort" to avoid court proceedings and the other side was not kept in the dark
  • Proceedings were unavoidable given the forklifts were being held and interest demands had been made
  • the holding of the consignment, which was described as "wholly unreasonable, vengeful and reckless, conducive to undue pressure and/or the unwarranted commencement of litigation, i.e. as opposed to the resolution of the dispute between the parties without having to go to Court"
  • NT Hauliers’ lack of engagement in the case did not bar the awarding of costs
  • the earlier case’s finding in favour of Tighe.

Costs sought totalled $8,539.96 but the judge rounded it down to $8,000.

 

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