liability

Lost luggage? What are your rights?

For damaged or lost luggage, where your travel is wholly within Australia with no international sectors, airlines are liable to compensate you under the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959 (Cth) (limited to a maximum of $1,600 for registered (checked) baggage and $160 for unchecked baggage).

For those travelling internationally, the rights of passengers for most airlines (carriers) are governed by the Montreal Convention, 1999 (Montreal Convention).

For the Montreal Convention to apply, both the country of departure and country of final destination must both be members. There are 136 countries that are parties.

The Warsaw Convention will generally apply where the Montreal Convention does not, but it is considered less favourable to passengers, especially when it comes to compensation and is based on a $/Kg calculation. This article assumes the Montreal Convention will apply.

Article 17 of the Montreal Convention provides:

“The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of destruction or loss of, or of damage to, checked baggage upon condition only that the event which caused the destruction, loss or damage took place on board the aircraft or during any period within which the checked baggage was in the charge of the carrier…”

Article 22 of the Montreal Convention states:

“In the carriage of baggage, the liability of the carrier in the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay is limited to 1,000* Special Drawing Rights for each passenger unless the passenger has made, at the time when the checked baggage was handed over to the carrier, a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination and has paid a supplementary sum if the case so requires. In that case the carrier will be liable to pay a sum not exceeding the declared sum, unless it proves that the sum is greater than the passenger’s actual interest in delivery at the destination.”

* adjusted to 1,131 SDR for inflation

So if you are travelling with something worth more than liability limit, you have the option to declare a higher value for your luggage and items when you check your bags at the airport. The carrier can provide you with a higher coverage amount for a fee (as per Article 22). The carrier will be liable to pay that higher amount unless it is proved that the declared amount is greater than the actual value of your baggage.

What is a Special Drawing Right?

A Special Drawing Right (SDR) is a fluctuating index based on a basket of international currencies as determined by the International Monetary Fund.

The current SDR rate is 1 SDR : AUD$2.01, so that entitles you to a maximum compensation of $2,273, but that is a maximum only – you will usually only get the replacement value.

If you keep every receipt you ever get, this is the time for you to shine as without receipts, it is difficult to get too much compensation!

What to do if your luggage is lost or damaged

If your luggage is damaged or does not arrive, ideally do not leave the airport. Rather, you should go to the baggage claim office at the destination airport and lodge a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) with the carrier that operated your final flight. Some carriers have time limits on reporting in their conditions of carriage (the terms you agree to when getting your ticket)

Most major airlines are relatively helpful when it comes to lost or damaged luggage, but even if they aren’t and you need to enforce your rights, note that Article 29 of the Montreal Convention provides:

“In … any action for damages … punitive, exemplary or any other non-compensatory damages shall not be recoverable.”

Travel insurance

If there is a shortfall between what the carrier pays you as compensation and what the item is worth, you can lodge a claim for the difference, subject of course to the terms of your travel cover, assuming you took it out.

For those that may not know, many credit card providers offer complimentary travel insurance if you pay an amount towards the costs of the trip on your card.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to any travel, contractual, business-related or 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 needs.

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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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Minimizing risk in your business

Running a business is risky and small businesses can be especially so. Minimizing risk in your business is crucial.

Often, SME owners put their own personal assets on the line, whether to borrow funds from a lender to start up or buy stock or equipment or by signing a guarantee in relation to suppliers and others for the debts of the business.

There are several methods of protecting personal assets from creditors, but it is a process that many don’t follow. Some are quite simple and easy to put in place. They include…

Placing assets in a spouses’ name or in a family trust

In most circumstances, creditors will not be able to make a claim upon assets owned by your spouse or held by a discretionary trust, provided that you are not the trustee. If your spouse is the trustee, then he or she is the person who will usually decide how to divide up the income or capital of a trust (or not to).

Of course, stamp duty and capital gains tax issues must also be considered before acquiring or transferring assets as well as the potential operation of claw back provisions. The loss of the principal place of residence CGT exemption or the land tax issues may be a factor weighing against doing this.

In the end, it is weighing up risk vs benefits and making an informed decision regarding any asset protection measures.

Encumbering assets if you cannot transfer them

An asset that is mortgaged to its value is not attractive to a creditor. The mortgagee in such a case is the only entity that will benefit from the subsequent sale of the asset.

A guarantee form a person without assets is effectively valueless. Often businesses don’t check to see what a guarantor actually owns.

If you seek a guarantee from a director of another business, you could make some inquiries about their credit/financial position before creating an account,

Correctly structuring your business

Sometimes it is not feasible to establish an asset-holding entity and a trading entity (as many small business start-ups are strapped for cash) but it can be a great way to protect the business assets from day to day trading risks. Even getting the type of business structure right from the beginning (sole trader, partnership, company, trust or combination etc) can have a massive impact on your business.

It is possible to establish a company with a single director  and/or single shareholder. The company dealing with third parties, supplies, customers and the like is the entity that may be liable to them, not the shareholders.

The shareholders are only liable to the company for the unpaid amounts (if any) on any issued share capital. This liability is usually a nominal amount such as a dollar. Shareholders have no liability to third parties unless they agree to it, such as by giving a guarantee.

Company directors may have some liability but only in limited circumstances can the corporate veil be lifted. Courts may be prepared to lift the veil in limited circumstances, such as in the case of insolvent trading, fraud or misrepresentation, inappropriate transactions or where public policy requires it.

Charging assets (and properly recording the charge)

Before lending money to your business, a charge should be created in the correct form and that form recorded as against assets such as real property (by way of mortgage recorded at Land and Property Information or another State’s land titles registry) or against non-real estate assets (by way of a Specific or General Security Deed and making a registration on the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR)) to secure repayment of that money in preference to other creditors should the business fail.

Having proper terms of trade

Most businesses, if they have them at all, have terribly inadequate terms and conditions of trade. Often they are just copied and pasted from other documents and not tailored, leaving businesses thinking they are adequately protected when they really are not covered at all.

T&Cs should be built to protect your particular business and should be a work in progress, tweaked to solve or prevent problems that have arisen in your business from occurring again,

Avoiding personal guarantees altogether

A guarantee is a contract by which a guarantor promises that another person or entity will comply with his, her or its obligations to a third party and if they don’t, the guarantor will. The most common example involves bank loans where a guarantor such as a parent promises to repay the loan of their child if the child defaults.

Becoming a guarantor can be extremely risky, particularly when large liabilities are involved. Under most guarantees, the guarantor becomes immediately and primarily liable to repay the debt (and the lender does not have to wait for attempt to recover from the borrower before calling on the guarantee).

As a practical matter, many businesses cannot obtain finance unless a personal guarantee is provided. If this is the case however, whenever the loan is actually repaid or if the business can prove it is financial stable and secure, the guarantee should be discharged so that the guarantor cannot continue to rely on it at a later date concerning subsequent transactions.

Managing staff

One of the biggest risks to your business is that of staff leaving, and worse still, taking valuable information and assets with them.

Having appropriately drafted Employment Contracts with restraints of trade in them is a must.

Superannuation contributions

In many circumstances, superannuation entitlements can be protected from bankruptcy trustees. There may be no protection for example where the payments are made for the primary purpose of defeating creditors.

Making contributions to super is getting harder and harder with the Federal Government’s recent changes to the superannuation laws however, this can be an effective long term tool for wealth creation and asset protection. This will also usually involve the assistance of your financial planner.

Business succession planning

If you are in business with another person, what happens to your business if you or your business partner gets seriously injured or dies?

Do you have an appropriate and valid Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardians in place?

Usually having these estate planning documents is not enough. Presumably your business partner would give all of his or her assets to their spouse on their death through their Will. What if you don’t want to me in business with your business partner’s partner?

You should have in place business succession documents to deal with this such as a Buy/Sell Deed with appropriate insurances, a Shareholders Agreement (for companies), Unitholders Agreement (for unit trusts) or a Partnership Agreement (for businesses operating through a partnership structure).

FURTHER INFORMATION

Craig Pryor is principal solicitor at McKillop Legal. For further information in relation to starting a new business, commercial law, business disputes or estate planning/business succession issues generally, 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 needs.

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What is a director penalty notice? (and what to do if you receive one)

WHAT IS A DIRECTOR PENALTY NOTICE?

In addition to potential liability for insolvent trading, company directors need to be aware of their potential personal liability if their company fails to remit certain amounts as and when due.

Directors will become personally liable when a company fails to remit amounts withheld under the PAYG withholding system or fails to meet its superannuation guarantee obligations.

This personal liability arises through the issue by the ATO of a Director Penalty Notice (DPN) under s. 222AOE of the Income Tax Assessment Act. If not complied with, a DPN makes the director it was issued to personally liable for the amount that the company should have paid, through imposition of a penalty.

The director’s PAYG withholding credits can also be reduced/taxed as part of the process.

The Commissioner is using the Director Penalty Notice provisions to pursue directors more and more.

The Commissioner of Taxation will usually first make a formal demand on the company seeking payment. If the company fails to comply with the notice, at the Commissioner’s discretion, a DPN may be served.

HOW TO AVOID LIABILITY

A director’s liability under the DPN is remitted if, within the 21 days stated in the DPN, the company either:

  • pays the amounts due,
  • is placed into Administration, or
  • has a Liquidator appointed.

The liability will not be remitted if the company has failed to report its PAYG withholding liability or superannuation guarantee shortfall within 3 months of the lodgement day. This encourages reporting.

Importantly:

  •  The 21 days cannot be extended.
  • Notice is given on the day the DPN is issued, not when it is or is likely to have been received.
  • A DPN is sent via ordinary mail to the last recorded residential address on the ASIC database – so these details need to be kept up to date as actual non-receipt of a DPN is not a defence.
  • The DPN provisions can also apply to new directors where, if after 30 days of their appointment, the company has not discharged its relevant liabilities.
  • A DPN can be served on a director’s registered tax agent.
  • Resigning as a director at or before the due date is no escape from the DPN regime.

Defences may be available where recovery proceedings are subsequently instituted against a director following non-compliance with a DPN.

All directors must ensure they stay completely abreast of their company’s affairs and must ensure the company meets all relevant obligations at all times.

This is why having good procedures and good advisors – whether legal, accounting, financial or otherwise – can prove invaluable.

FURTHER INFORMATION

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