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COVID-19: Will my hearing go ahead? – Part 3

By Andrew Hack, Solicitor, and Stephen Mullette, Principal, of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

This is part 3 of our series on what will constitute valid grounds for an adjournment of a pending hearing, due to COVID-19 and the global coronavirus pandemic.

In Talent v Official Trustee in Bankruptcy & Anor (No 5) [2020] ACTSC 64 the Plaintiff sought an adjournment of the trial hearing, arguing that he was an ‘at risk’ person because he suffered from leukaemia. Doctors had recommended that he remain isolated.

Submissions were made about the Plaintiff’s legal team being at risk, as well as the Defendant’s senior counsel withdrawing because she was at risk and could not fly down for the hearing. However, those matters were expressly not considered.

The court did consider that a lot of the hearing could be conducted from a remote location. However, on balance the Court granted the adjournment application, based on the Plaintiff’s right to observe the hearing and the need to provide prompt instructions. The Court drew a distinction between final hearings and other court procedures:
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COVID-19: Will my hearing go ahead? – Part 2

By Andrew Hack, Solicitor, and Stephen Mullette, Principal, of Matthews Folbigg Lawyers, in our Insolvency, Restructuring and Debt Recovery Group.

We are continuing our series on whether a global pandemic will allow (or force) an adjournment of pending court proceedings.

In Kahil v R [2020] NSWCCA 56 Senior Counsel for the accused sought leave to withdraw from appearing for a co-accused on the 7th day of an estimated 3 week criminal trial. This was because he was aged 69, had a “compromised immune system” and was concerned about his exposure to one of the co-accused (his client) who he described as “fluey”. Counsel had tried to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus over the weekend and had been refused because “he did not qualify for a test”.

Essentially, this application also meant that the hearing would need to be aborted and the jury discharged.

The District Court judge refused an adjournment, summarising Senior Counsel’s position as: “at best, that you think that you could have been in contact with someone who has not been diagnosed with COVID-19, that perhaps you may have been in contact with it, and you are concerned.”
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Enforcing Environmental Laws in the Land and Environment Court

The Land and Environment Court operates in a specialist jurisdiction dealing with cases that relate to mining, planning, the environment, local government and development. The Land and Environment Court was established by legislation and can only deal with matters that fall within its jurisdiction.

Civil Enforcement

Most environmental proceedings within NSW can be enforced through civil proceedings in the courts, particularly the Land and Environment Court where there is an alleged breach of an environmental law.

Civil action in the courts can be used to obtain court orders to prevent environmental harm from occurring which is beneficial as often in criminal proceedings, legal action is reactive and taken after harm has already been caused. For example an injunction can be sought in the Land and Environment Court to prevent an incident that would cause environmental harm.

Examples of actions that may be undertaken in the Land and Environment Court include:

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Importance of Careful Drafting for Council Contracts

Background

Case Note: Port Macquarie-Hastings Council v Diveva Pty Limited [2017] NSWCA 97

In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal of NSW made a determination which is particularly instructive for Councils when undertaking any tender process. The decision highlights the importance of carefully drafting contracts and the need to ensure that sufficient information is provided to potential tenderers during the tender process.

In 2011, Diveva Pty Limited (Diveva) successfully entered into a contract with Council to supply and lay asphalt around Council’s local government area. The contract had a simple “option” clause which merely stated that the period of the agreement was to be two years “with a future twelve (12) month option available”.

Diveva conducted works under the contract throughout 2011 and 2012 but Council observed significant defects in the works during this period. Due to the defective work, in March 2013 Council advised that it would not exercise the option to extend and a new tender would be advertised.  In April 2013, Diveva gave notice that it would exercise the option to extend for a further 12 months. Council asserted that the option was not a unilateral clause for the benefit of Diveva and could only be exercised by the Council or by mutual agreement. Therefore, Council commenced the tender process and entered into agreement with another company for those services.
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