Litigation

Creditor’s Statutory Demand

If you or your business are owed a debt by an Australian company that is not disputed, then there can be a relatively simple, yet effective way of obtaining payment in as little as 3 weeks.

The Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) provides for the issue of a document called a “creditor’s statutory demand” to any company that owes a debt greater than the prescribed amount (which is presently $2,000).

The process is basically that the demand is served and then you wait.

Statutory demands must be in the prescribed form, detail the debt due, be signed by or on behalf of the creditor and be properly served on the company. Where the debt is not a judgment debt, an affidavit is also required to be signed, certifying that the debt is due and payable.

The Act provides where the demand is served and not complied with within 21 days, the company is presumed to be insolvent and is liable to be wound up. Compliance with the demand is achieved by either paying the debt due or coming to an arrangement satisfactory to the creditor in relation to payment of the debt within that 21 day period.

The presumption of insolvency lasts for 3 months after the 21 day period expires. Any proceedings to wind up the company on the basis that it is insolvent must be commenced within that period.

Creditor’s statutory demands may only be set aside by the Court on certain grounds and applications to do so must be both filed with the Court and served on the creditor that issued the demand within that 21 day period. Grounds for setting aside the demands are limited and include where there is a defect in the demand, where the amount owed is less than the prescribed amount or where there is a dispute as to the existence and/or amount of the debt claimed. None of these grounds may be relied on to oppose a demand after the 21 day period.

Where the debt is disputed, the service of a creditor’s statutory demand is not the appropriate way to obtain payment however, there are other methods available.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to debt recovery, company issues or any commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your legal concerns or objectives.

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What is an indemnity clause?

WHAT IS AN INDEMNITY CLAUSE?

An indemnity clause is a common clause in contracts, whether for the supply of goods, terms and conditions of the provision of services, leasing of assets or the sale of property.

The indemnity is intended to assign responsibility for risks in performing the contract to a particular party – it either confirms or alters the position at common law which would otherwise apply to determine responsibility for such events.

COMMON EXAMPLES

When drafting an indemnity, the nature and types of losses that may arise need to be considered.

Common areas that you may want an indemnity clause or limitation of liability cause to cover may include: negligence; injury to or the death of any person; loss of or damage to property; infringement of third party rights, such as intellectual property rights; duties and taxes; and legal costs and disbursements.

REMOTENESS & REASONABLE FORSEEABILITY

The common law (extending back to the 1854 case of Hadley v Baxendale) basically provides that if a head of damage wasn’t contemplated by the parties at the time of contracting (wasn’t reasonably foreseeable) or didn’t arise naturally arises from the breach according the usual course of thing (is too remote) – it may not be a recoverable loss.

Accordingly, if the damages that you may want the other party to wish the other party to bear on the occurrence of a certain event are considered remote, then they would probably not be recoverable at common law and therefore, you may wish to specifically provide for them in the clause.

The other party may not agree, so the negotiation would then begin and the parties will ultimately have to agree on what is a reasonable compromise in the circumstances.

DRAFTING THE INDEMNITY

Commonly, indemnity clauses are drafted such that where a right to indemnity arises, the liability reduced to the extent that the party benefited by the clause caused or contributed to the loss, that is reduced proportionally.

The extreme in indemnity clauses is where the liable party is liable absolutely (ie, there is no carve out to reduce the liability proportionally). This type of clause, given its strict nature, is usually only agreed to where the event is wholly within the control of the indemnifying party.

INSURANCE COVERAGE

Just as the strength of a personal guarantee is in the financial standing of the guarantor, you also need to be satisfied that the party providing the indemnity has the means to meet any claim if called upon. Often, a party is required to have insurance to support any indemnity but they fail to investigate the extent of their cover and are often not insured at all.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to any contract negotiation, agreement drafting issue commercial dispute, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

This information is general only and is not a substitute for proper legal advice. Please contact McKillop Legal to discuss your legal concerns or objectives.

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How does jury service work?

Jury service plays an important role in our justice system. Juries are used to ensure that legal verdicts are impartial and in line with community standards of behaviour.


The jury system in New South Wales is administered by the Jury Services Branch of the Office of the Sheriff of New South Wales, operating in accordance with the Jury Act 1977 and the Jury Amendment Act 2010.

WHAT DOES A JURY DO?

Juries are used in the District and Supreme Courts of New South Wales to:
  • hear and determine more serious criminal matters
  • hear and determine civil matters involving large monetary claims
  • participate in coronial inquests in the New South Wales Coroner’s Court.

In criminal trials, a jury hears evidence, applies the law as directed by the judge, and decides if a person is guilty or not guilty of a crime, based on the facts. A jury does not participate in the sentencing process.


In most criminal trials, 12 people are selected to be on the jury. Up to 15 jurors can be empanelled if a trial is expected to last longer than 3 months. To be ‘empanelled’ means to be chosen for a specific trial.

Civil trials which require juries are usually defamation proceedings. The trial judge will outline the issues the jury needs to consider to decide who is at fault. A civil trial jury is typically comprised of 4 jurors however, in the Supreme Court, 12 jurors may be ordered.

HOW IS A JURY SELECTED?

There are 3 steps to jury selection:
  1. Inclusion on the jury roll
  2. Receiving a jury summons
  3. Jury selection and empanelling

People who sit as jurors in a particular trial have gone through all 3 steps.

Each year, the names of around 200,000 potential jurors are randomly selected from the New South Wales Electoral Roll (the list of registered voters) and included on a jury roll. Notices of Inclusion are sent out to tell people they are on the jury roll. This is a list of people who could be selected for jury service in the next 12 months.

Approximately 150,000 people on the roll are sent a jury summons notice at some point in the year. This notice requires them to come to court, where they may be selected as a juror for a specific trial.

Out of these, only about 9,000 people a year are selected to serve on jury panels for specific trials. They are then empanelled as jurors.

You can ask to be excused from jury service for various reasons, including the kind of work you do, personal circumstances or because you are away from the state.

There are several categories of people that are excluded from being on a jury (such as lawyers, judges, members of parliament, policemen etc) and others who may be exempted from being on a jury (such as doctors, firemen, members of the clergy, the ill and those who have been on a jury in the last 3 years etc).

DO YOU GET PAID?

If you are selected as a juror, you will get paid an allowance for attending (only if for more than half a day) plus a travel allowance. This is intended to reduce any financial hardship you may incur by serving as a juror, but is not intended to be equal to your normal wage or salary payment – it is effectively a public service obligation on all citizens of New South Wales.

The amount you are paid depends on the length of the trial and whether you are currently employed or not employed. People who are not employed include carers, stay at home parents, retirees and unemployed people.

The present entitlement are:

The travel allowance is calculated on the distance from your postcode to the courthouse and is presently paid at the rate of 30.7c/Km.

Allowances are paid weekly by electronic funds transfers to your nominated bank account. You will be given details to log onto juror.nsw.gov.au and enter your bank account details prior to your court attendance.

WHAT ABOUT EMPLOYERS?

The allowance paid to jurors is not intended to be a substitute for a salary or wage.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, an employer is required to pay full-time or part-time staff for the first 10 days of jury service.

Employers cannot:
  • force employees to take own leave, such as recreation or sick leave, while doing jury service;
  • dismiss, injure or alter their employees position for doing jury service;
  • ask employees to work on any day that they are serving as jurors; or
  • ask employees to do additional hours or work to make up for time that they missed as a result of jury service.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION
Craig Pryor  is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to jury duty or any court/litigation related matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.

Deceased estate litigation

Succession Act claims

We are often called upon to advise clients in relation to claims on estates in relation to such things as challenging the validity of the Will (such as due to lack of mental capacity when the deceased person made the will or duress) or what is known as a Succession Act claim or a family provision claim (where a person says that adequate provision was not made for them in a Will). We discuss the latter here.

The purpose of the Succession Act is to seek to ensure that “adequate” provision is provided from a deceased’s estate to the family members of a deceased person (and others). Claims under the Act are based on needs.

Important facts

  • Claims must be made within 12 months of the date of death of the deceased (although in limited circumstanced, this time limit can be extended).
  • To make a claim, you must first establish that you are an “eligible person”.
  • Assuming you are an “eligible person”, you must demonstrate needs beyond the provision that was made for you in the Will (if any) for your proper maintenance, education or advancement in life.

Who is an eligible person?

Those who are eligible to make a claim for a provision out of deceased estate include:
  • A spouse of the deceased at the time of the deceased’s death;
  • A person in a de facto relationship with the deceased at the time of death
  • Children (including adopted children) of the deceased;
  • Former spouses of the deceased;
  • Someone with whom the deceased was in a close personal relationship* at the time of their death;
  • Those who have, at any time, been wholly or partly dependent upon the deceased:

- were either a grandchild of the deceased; or

- were, at any time, member of a household of which the deceased a member.

* A “close personal relationship” is a relationship other than a marriage or a de facto relationship between two adult persons, whether or not related by family, who are living together, one or each of whom provides the other with domestic support and personal care but not for reward or on behalf of another person or organisation.

What is involved?

To make a claim, the proceedings are usually commenced in the Supreme Court by way of Summons and evidence will be required in an affidavit setting out the nature and history of the relationship, contributions made to the deceased’s property and wellbeing, details of your financial need and any other relevant factors.

Simply having financial needs and showing some level of dependence on the deceased is not the end of it. The Court will have to weigh up many other factors, such as the size of the estate, the deceased’s wishes (such as those stated in a statement of testamentary intention or other similar document), competing claims from others, circumstances and events that may tend to dis-entitle a person from a benefit and so on.

Time and costs involved

Litigation is a lengthy and time-consuming process and it is an emotional one with family relationships being strained by what may be contained in affidavits or said in the witness box at a hearing. That said, often the estate pays the costs (or a large proportion of them) involved in such cases so it may not be a financial burden to enforce your rights.

Most cases settle prior hearing and usually at a mediation that can be arranged by the Court or by private agreement between the parties. Settlement is often advised to avoid the risks, costs (and emotional cost) of litigation and to help preserve any family relationships.

Often we act for the executors of an estate, but we also act for beneficiaries and those that are not mentioned in Wills at all.
Further information

If you would like any more information in relation to Wills, deceased estate litigation or estate planning/business succession issues generally, please contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au

Have you just been served?

COURT PAPERS JUST DELIVERED TO YOUR OFFICE?

If you have received a Statement of Claim, Summons, Originating Process or Writ, be aware that you must act very quickly.

Replying to the person, entity or firm that issued the Court/Tribunal papers is not enough. Formal steps to file an Appearance, Defence, Notice of Intention to Defend or Reply must be taken within the relevant time.

The proper form of response varies depending on which court and in which jurisdiction the proceedings have been commenced as they each have different Rules and Regulations that apply.

Generally, a Defendant, Respondent etc will have only 28 days or such other period as may be specified in the document in which to file the appropriate response. Failure to do so in time or at all will leave the recipient open to summary or default judgment (automatic judgment against you without a hearing).

Failure to file and serve the appropriate document in response in time can have dire consequences.

A judgment can affect credit ratings, the ability to seek finance in the future and is a precursor to enforcement actions such as bankruptcy litigation, liquidation and winding up of companies, garnishee orders, writs of possession, visits from the Sheriff, notices for examination etc!

Default judgments can often be set aside, but this comes at a cost and immediately puts you on the back foot. In litigation, it is best to stay ahead of the game and be pro-active.

Most court documents are required to be served personally however, companies can be served by post at their registered office. Documents commencing proceedings for small claims (claims under $10,000) can be served by post by the court.

If a court document is served, steps should be taken to immediately seek advice from (rather than leaving it to the last few days).

McKillop Legal can assist in various ways such as:

  • seeking more details of the claim from the lawyers for the party commencing the claim,
  • filing and serving the appropriate document to prevent default judgment,
  • advising on the claim and its prospects of success,
  • filing any defence document
  • preparing your evidence,
  • attempting to resolve the matter prior to any hearing, and/or
  • if necessary, running the hearing with a barrister.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to litigation and dispute resolution or any commercial law matter, contact Craig Pryor on (02) 9521 2455 or email craig@mckilloplegal.com.au.