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If you’re unhappy with your mediation outcomes, could it be your mediator was not qualified?

After speaking with many people in various social media groups that discuss legal issues, it became apparent that many people are disillusioned with their mediation experiences, somewhat baffled by this,  I was determined to find out what is the cause of such ill-feeling towards mediation.

After numerous discussions, what became abundantly clear, was in many cases the Mediator was not qualified as a Mediator,  yes they may be legal professionals,  lawyers, barristers, court registrars etc who are very familiar with the law and can grasp the legal implications of a case, but the problem here is…. they are not mediators,  when mediating they are not there to give legal advice or opinion.  That is the job of the lawyers representing the parties.

So with no formal mediation qualifications or training, the ad-hoc mediator enters the fray,  puts on his mediator hat and now hopes for the best that they can help the parties negotiate a deal with some sort of guidance from the wannabe mediator.

On top of that to add insult to injury the parties are forced to pay exorbitant rates for this so called mediation,  with costs ranging from $7,500 to over $13,000 for the day of Mediation being commonly quoted.

In contrast, highly experienced, qualified mediators who are trained to NMAS standards and registered with the Mediator Standards Board according to rates paid by Government agencies for mediators who have to maintain an 80% success rate[1] in their performance and resolution of cases only get $1,350 per day[2].

So before you chose your next mediator or accept one to mediate your case click here Mediator Standards Board and see if their name is listed to show they are qualified and trained to National Standards.

If you would like a free, no obligation consultation with a nationally qualified mediator simply complete the form below and we will call you to discuss whether mediation could help you.

 

Footnotes 

[1] Victorian Small Business Commissioner, Mediation Panel Policy for Appointment of Mediators, accessed here on 06/13/18 at 10.56am, https://www.vsbc.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/VSBC-Mediation-Panel-Policy-for-Appointment-of-Mediators.pdf.

[2] Victorian Small Business Commissioner, Mediation Panel Fee Policy, accessed here on 6/13/2018 at 10.54am  https://www.vsbc.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/VSBC-Mediation-Panel-Fee-Policy.pdf.

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Costs orders and litigation – beware unpredictable outcomes and always take settlement offers seriously

An article by Zohra Ali of Stacklaw:

I was recently involved in a case where someone was offered half a million dollars as settlement, declined that offer, lost his case in the Supreme Court and had a costs order made against him. He subsequently decided to make an application to the Court of Appeal, but he also lost the appeal and had another costs order made against him.

The costs of the two proceedings together are likely to equate to at least $250,000. This person has gone from potentially gaining half a million dollars to losing a quarter of a million.

“No win no fee” arrangements can lead to overlooking risk of adverse costs orders

The solicitors who ran this case ran it on a no win no fee basis. This means that if the client does not win the case, the solicitors do not charge any professional fees.

The no win no fee method can be quite enticing and useful for those who do not have the funds to engage in litigation but may have a strong case. The downside in these situations however, is that the risk of having to pay the other party’s costs often gets overlooked.

Outcome of litigation inherently unpredictable

Anytime someone engages in litigation, they need to consider any settlement offers received carefully and accept the fact that no matter how prepared you are or how strong a case you may feel you have, there is always the risk that you might not win.

And if you do not win, you can be subject to a hefty costs order that could completely change your life, and not for the better.

How can I still lose when my legal advisers are telling me I have a strong case?

This is a good question, and there are a number of reasons.

You may have a strong case, but you might be called to the stand to give evidence. If this happens, you might not be a good witness. Your solicitor is limited in how much guidance he or she can give you with respect to what to say in the witness box, as there is a fine ethical line between witness preparation and “witness coaching”.

Also, being in the witness box can be scary, nerve wracking and emotionally draining. These feelings can all impact negatively on how you answer questions and how you present yourself in the witness box. If you exude negative emotions or rub the judge up the wrong way, you could be inadvertently harming your own case.

All parties to litigation typically believe they have a strong case

Going to a final hearing is a gamble. You are placing the decision-making power into the hands of a third party, and hoping that on the basis of the evidence, they will make a decision in your favour.

While your evidence and claim may be strong, do not forget that the other party would not have taken the matter this far if they did not also believe they have a strong case.

Subconscious bias can cloud objectivity

Humans can declare objectivity in their decision making and can even appear to be objective. However, we cannot control the subjective influence our subconscious mind can have on a decision.

Sometimes we cannot consciously recognise our own biases regarding particular characteristics and/or behaviours. How can we ensure objectivity with respect to such biases if we do not even know that they exist?

The same applies to judges. You do not know the judge’s history, their story or their experiences. If the judge had a negative experience in the past and you bear any kind of resemblance or share a mannerism with someone who may have been the cause of that negative experience, this could be the cause of the downfall of your entire case.

At what point do judges decide who wins the case?

There is a theory among lawyers that judges have already made their decision fairly early on in the final hearing, and then work backwards to justify their decision in preparing judgment. While I do not know if it is true, I have noticed that whenever I read our firm’s fortnightly “Which case won?” newsletters, I instinctively lean towards a specific response without necessarily being familiar with the legalities of the case.

The majority of the time, the response I select is correct. Remember, judges review and become familiar with your claim before the final trial. The final trial is simply an opportunity for each party to present evidence and to present submissions, but if the judge already has some preconceived views about your claim, it may be difficult to persuade him or her to adopt a different viewpoint, especially if you are not aware of those preconceived views.

Different types of costs orders

If you have a case which is going to trial, you should become familiar with the different types of costs orders so that you know what kind of costs orders you may be facing.

Scaled costs are costs which are regulated by law and capped at a certain amount. Scaled costs are common in certain debt recovery matters where default judgment is given in favour of the plaintiff because the defendant never responded or filed a defence to the claim.

Solicitor/client costs are the costs that you pay to your lawyer. Unless you are in a no win no fee arrangement, these costs are payable to your lawyer regardless of the outcome of your case. Normally you would pay these costs on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on your solicitor’s billing schedule.

Party/party costs are the costs which the winning party in the case can recover from the unsuccessful party, in the event that an ordinary costs order has been made. The purpose of these orders is to compensate the winning party for their solicitor/client costs.

Indemnity costs are the costs payable to a successful party where the successful party has been subjected to unnecessary costs as a direct result of the conduct of the other party. The awarding of an indemnity costs order is made by the court upon an application from the aggrieved party.

An example of a circumstance where an indemnity costs order may be made is when a party has appealed the decision of a judge after being unsuccessful in their case, and subsequently loses that case too (as in the example given earlier).

Possible dire financial consequences of a costs order

If you receive a costs order against you, the costs order is automatically considered to be a court judgment. Bankruptcy notices can be served on the basis of the judgment.

If you are unable to negotiate a deal with the winning party, you could end up bankrupt. I say this because matters which go to a final hearing usually incur costs of $100,000 to $150,000 per party, depending on the complexity of the case.

If you appeal the decision and lose that too, as in the example at the beginning of this article, then you can add another hundred thousand and you are looking at $250,000 in costs being payable. Most people do not have $250,000 lying around.

Unless you are able to come up with that money (which could even mean needing to sell your house), you could be made bankrupt and most of your assets may vest into an appointed bankruptcy trustee who will then liquify your assets to satisfy creditor debts.

Emotional consequences of a costs order

Aside from the financial consequences of a costs order, there are significant emotional consequences as well. A costs order can put a strain on you and your family, and potentially cause marital problems.

It can cause you to feel resentment, regret and hatred. It can also cause you physical distress and real depression.

Bad reasons for going to court

Going to court and going to a final hearing is a serious matter with serious financial consequences. Do not let matters of principle, a misdirected search for justice or greed be the motivation for going to court.

Listen to your solicitors carefully, take settlement offers seriously and always be commercial and practical in your decision making. Do not let your heart rule your head, or you could end up in a far worse position than you were in when you embarked on the litigation.

Mediation
Mediation in Civil disputes can be invoked at any time and as many times as the parties like.  The process is without prejudice to the case and statistics show around 60% of cases can be resolved by the parties themselves through facilitative mediation.

Even where mediation is not successful in resolving the entire dispute it can narrow the scope of the dispute and save you time and money.

One thing that is for sure, is a mediated resolution to the case is something you will be happy with, because in the end, despite being facilitated by a professional mediator, it is your decision.

To find out more fill in this form and a qualified mediator will contact you for a no obligation free initial consultation to see if mediation is suitable for you.

Source : Stack Law

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I’m being sued, what should I do?

So, you’ve just received a statement of claim and you don’t know what to do with it?

Whilst you may be tempted to just add it to the pile of junk mail and forget about it, you may want to think twice about doing so. If you have received a statement of claim you have 28 days from the date you received it to consider your options and, if necessary, file a defence.

First of all you should consider that the Victorian Civil Procedure Act 2010,
Section 7 explains the overarching purpose in relation to civil proceedings is to facilitate the just, efficient, timely and cost‑effective resolution of the real issues in dispute and goes on to say that you can use any appropriate dispute resolution process to resolve the dispute, you don’t “have to” go to Court and pursuant to Section 11 you have a right to any appropriate dispute resolution,  Section 3 defines “appropriate dispute resolution” as a process attended, or participated in, by a party for the purposes of negotiating a settlement of the civil proceeding or resolving or narrowing the issues in dispute, including mediation, whether or not referred to a mediator in accordance with rules of court;

In the meantime, while you ponder whether you want to go to Court or Mediation

What happens if you just leave it in the pile of junk mail, will it just go away? 

Unfortunately deciding to ignore a statement of claim can have a snowball effect. If. after 28 days, you decide to do nothing, the party who issued the statement of claim may apply to have default judgment entered against you. They may then seek to enforce the judgment to recover the debt by, for example:

1. Issuing a garnishee order to deduct payments from your wages or any rental income you usually receive to pay the debt

2. Issuing a writ allowing a sheriff to seize your personal property to pay for the debt

3. Commencing bankruptcy proceedings against you

4. A combination of the above.

If a judgment is entered against you this can affect your credit rating and this may make it difficult for you to obtain credit in the future.

So, what should you do if you receive a statement of claim?

As a starting point, you should seek legal advice about the options available to you having regard to the facts and circumstances of your particular matter. By doing this you will be able to place yourself on the front foot from the outset.

There are several options which may be available to you, for example:

5. It may be that you have a valid defence to the claim and should file a defence and defend yourself in Court proceedings.

6. You may be able to negotiate with the party that issued the statement of claim to reach a settlement without having to resort to protracted and costly Court proceedings. This will of course depend on your individual circumstances and the attitude of the other party.

7. You may admit that you owe the amount claimed in the statement of claim… You may be able to negotiate an agreement with the other party to pay the amount claimed by way of installment payments.

Mediation is an option that you can invoke at any time during proceedings, however at the time you are served a statement of claim it may well be the best time strategically to commence Mediation instead of either ignoring the matter or going straight to litigation.

Mediation firstly will often cost less than it would cost to have a lawyer even look at the statement of claim let alone work on it and file a defence.  It will give you the opportunity to force the other party to come to the negotiating table and hear you out and your side of the story.    Whatever is said in Mediation is “without prejudice” meaning it can not be used in Court against you, this is a protected right in Section 67 of the Civil procedure act.

The other party is obliged to come to Mediation otherwise any lawyers and Court costs incurred may go against them for not being reasonable and considering appropriate dispute resolution methods provided for in the Act.

Mediation gives you some control of the situation in that it enables and facilitates the parties themselves to resolve the dispute without the need of costly lawyers and court fees not to mention the time and stress and the toll that litigation can take.

These are just some of the many options that are available to you if you are served with a statement of claim.

Source : Watkins Tapsell Solicitors,  Edited by Danny Jovica NMAS Accredited Mediator.

To see if Mediation can work for you feel free to contact us using this form for a free no obligation initial consultation.

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Active Preparation Leads to Better Mediation Results

After have deciding to mediate and selecting a mediator, each litigants’ focus should shift to preparation.  In our experience, mediation results improve significantly when the parties, not just the attorneys, come prepared for mediation.  This post offers 7 pointers for parties to follow when preparing for mediation with their lawyers.

  1. Participate in Drafting the Mediation Statement. The written mediation statement primarily serves to inform the mediator of the issues in the case, the parties’ respective positions, and the real points of contention.  Because the parties usually have a deeper understanding  of the factual and economic issues in a case, the parties themselves need to be involved in the process of finalizing the mediation statement.  The parties may suggest important points, such as a crucial missing fact or a tweak based on a business goal.
  2. Analyze the Parties’ Leverage. Depending on a variety of factors, such as the relative strength of the parties’ positions or time pressures facing a particular party, the parties may possess different types or amounts of leverage.  Spend some time speaking with counsel regarding which party has the upper hand, how, and why.
  3. Brainstorm in the Abstract and Specific. In thinking about resolutions to propose at mediation, think strategically.  And be specific.  Considering abstract concepts is helpful, but do not stop there.  Think about how specific terms may get fleshed out in the ultimate agreement.

For example, if a manufacturer is in a dispute with the designer of its Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) system, the manufacturer may be willing to continue using the CRM if the software vendor will agree to provide technical support for a period of time.  That concept may be a crucial component of a mutually agreeable settlement, but the manufacturer should consider the necessary details – how many months or years would the technical support be needed, how many hours per week or month must the designer be willing to commit to, who at the vendor will provide the technical support, and will the technical support include adding features or providing updates?

Considering the details before mediation will highlight potential problems and increase the likelihood of reaching a concrete mediation settlement.

  1. Think Creatively. Resolving a case before trial, whether by traditional settlement or through mediation, has many benefits, such as avoiding potential liability from an adverse result, avoiding additional attorneys’ fees and litigation costs, ceasing interruptions of employees’ and leadership’s time, and relieving the emotional stress created by litigation.  Further, the American justice system does not often render “compromise” results.  Mediation, on the other hand, empowers the parties to employ self-determination.   For example, in a dispute with a supplier regarding the sale of goods, the parties could agree to a settlement that includes discounts, premiums or other accommodations in future transactions between the parties.  A judge or jury could not award such a remedy.
  2. Consider the Other Side’s Perspective. As the old saying goes, “you cannot understand another until you walk a mile in his or her shoes.”  Ask: if the opposing party performs this same analysis, what leverage will the other side perceive and what potential resolutions might be suggested?  Sticking points and pitfalls may become clear.  For example, in a warranty dispute, the seller may be much more interested in the message sent to other buyers by resolving the case at hand than the actual amount of money paid for the settlement.
  3. Set (Compromise) Goals Before Mediation. Litigants should approach mediation and their strategy with a goal in mind.  In the adversarial process, most want to “win.”  But one must ask, “What does winning mean in the context of mediation?”  Mediation is not a trial, and if one approaches mediation with the goal of “winning” by getting everything available at trial, mediation almost certainly will not be successful.  In other words, parties should seek to resolve the case on terms that are acceptable but not perfect.
  4. Communicate with Counsel. The lawyers almost certainly have been through mediation more times than the parties, and they can offer insight into the legal aspects of the case at play.  Hopefully, the lawyer may also serve as a business counselor based on his or her experience, helping to identify business goals and mediation tactics to align with those goals.  Most importantly, if the lawyer does not fully understand the client’s goals, he or she may utilize a strategy that is not best suited for reaching the desired outcomes.

The key takeaway is that the parties should work closely with their lawyers in preparing for mediation.  The foregoing are not step-by-step directions, but rather an outline to use in formulating the appropriate mediation strategy and goals.  Stay tuned for our next post, discussing tips for the day of mediation.

Source : The National Law Review 

For further information or a free consultation, please use this form to contact us.

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The Lawyer who didn’t know CISG (International Commercial Law)

Introduction

This paper examines ‘Phil’ the hypothetical lawyer who didn’t study international commercial law, which is not necessary to complete a law degree.  Phil didn’t know the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods ‘CISG[1] applied to a contract of sale based on Victorian law.

The CISG[2] has been adopted worldwide by 84 States[3] becoming the governing law globally, covering international sales of goods since the 1st of January 1988 and adopted in Australia, in all states and territories, since April 1st 1989[4].

Autonomous Application.

The CISG is autonomously applicable to all Australian transactions involving the sale of goods internationally by virtue of Article 1 (1) as a result of Australia being a contracting State.  The Convention, which is now part of the municipal law of Australia, is not to be treated as foreign law which requires proof as a fact[5], the Provisions of the Convention have the force of law in Victoria[6] and prevail over any other law in Victoria to the extent of any inconsistency[7].

Despite three decades of operation few cases have considered CISG in Australia.  According to the Pace Law School, Institute of International Commercial Law, that maintain a CISG database of cases, their Country Case Schedule (last updated on the 25th of January 2016) contains links to some 3,152 cases where Courts in Member states have considered CISG, of those only 26 cases from Australia get a mention[8], similarly searches on Australian Legal Databases produce few results.

Australian application of the CISG has been criticized as still in the Australian legal outback[9], with criticism extending to suggest Australian lawyers have paid the CISG inadequate attention to their clients detriment[10].

The criticism has been savage, “the CISG has not been fully understood”[11] and “it is fair to say that the CISG is scarcely known in Australia.”[12] One has to wonder what chance would an Australian client have with an Australian lawyer who is not well versed in CISG?

The Lawyer Who Doesn’t know Part I – Does CISG apply?

If Phil relied on his knowledge of Australian Contract Law when drafting, choosing Victorian Law as the agreed law that governs the contract and thus invoking the Goods Act 1958 (Vic) ‘GAV’,     he may unwittingly have put his client into a position where the contract is subject to the CISG first and foremost, with Australian law only filling any gaps.

This is because the GAV provides that the CISG has force of law in Victoria, and prevails over any inconsistencies[13]. Even if a lawyer tries to avoid the CISG in the pleadings the Court may still apply the CISG due to the lawyer pleading incorrectly inapplicable domestic laws.

This was evident in Downs Investments Pty Ltd v Perwaja Steel SDN BHD [2001] QCA 433[14] where the contract stated any dispute to “be settled by the laws prevailing in Brisbane”[15] yet it was held that the CISG applied, stating

“As the respondent was in Australia and the appellant in Malaysia it was held that The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, made relevant by the Sale of Goods (Vienna Convention) Act l986, applied to the transaction. The learned trial judge held on the evidence that the appellant had fundamentally breached the contract and assessed damages pursuant to Articles 74 and 75 of the Convention.”[16]

Then in Perry Eng P/L (Rec And Man Appt’d) V Bernold AG No. SCGRG-99-1063 [2001] SASC 15 (1 February 2001) ‘Perry[17] where Perry already entered default judgement and the hearing turned to damages, the contract provided:

“The Contract shall be deemed to have been made in the State of South Australia and all matters relating directly or indirectly thereto or arising directly or indirectly there from shall be governed in all respect by the Laws of the State of South Australia and the parties submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the State of South Australia Courts.”[18]

The Court however took a different view, stating “However, there is a further complication that the Sale of Goods (Vienna Convention) Act 1986 (SA) applies to the dealings between the parties but the relevant provisions have not been pleaded in the plaintiff’s statement of claim. The statement of claim has been drawn up on the assumption that the South Australian Sale of Goods Act applies. This seems to me to be fatal to the plaintiff’s ability to proceed to judgment based on damages for breach of contract.”[19]

In response Perry contended “that it was not necessary to plead the specific provisions of the Sale of Goods (Vienna Convention) Act”[20].  Reliance was placed on Roder Zelt v Rosedown Park[21] but, Burley J did not accept this and distinguished the cases stating “in my view that case is not authority for the proposition contended for by the plaintiff. The trial Judge, von Doussa J, did not complete the hearing of the matter and did not then indicate that it was unnecessary to plead the statute.”[22]

Therefore it is clear that Roder Zelt can be easily distinguished, as held by Brumby J above.[23]  Ultimately it was held “That being the case, the Court cannot proceed to an assessment of damages based on the provisions of an Act of Parliament which the plaintiff acknowledges do not apply to the claim pursued by the plaintiff.[24]  Phil just lost his client damages.

The Lawyer who doesn’t know Part II – Domestic Pleadings.

In the case of Ginza Pty Ltd v Vista Corp Pty Ltd[25]Ginza[26] ordered contact lens solution from Vista subject to compliance with the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (‘TGA’) regulatory requirements including that the goods were sterile.

The TGA discovered bacterial contamination in its random testing and ordered the goods recalled.

A dispute between the Seller and Buyer ensued with Vista suing for full contract price and Ginza countered that no payment should be due with claims for breach due to non-conformity, negligence[27] and claimed damages for lost profits and lost goodwill as well as costs of recall[28].

Merchantable Quality.

Ginza argued express terms of compliance with TGA regulatory requirements and sterility were a condition of the contract and in the alternative implied terms of “merchantable quality and fitness for purpose” applied pursuant to the Sale of Goods Act 1895 (WA) or the CISG[29].

The problem with such an argument is that “merchantable quality” is not a CISG term[30], it comes from Common Law and Domestic Legislation, which the CISG is above autonomously and any interpretation of the Contract, as it is covered by CISG, ought to be read in light of CISG Article 35(2)(a) and global case law.

In this case the appropriate standard is “fitness for purpose” which requires the goods to be of specific standards[31] and non-conformity under Article 35(1) which requires compliance with “quality, quantity and description”.

If it was not so clear cut and the distinction was drawn between merchantable quality in reliance upon domestic law as opposed to fitness for specific purpose which is a narrower standard under the CISG, Phil’s client could face a controversial matter.

Phil might erroneously find in Ginza a reason to cite a non-CISG case in support of an argument of contamination[32] however, as Barker J considered, any pleadings ought to be made in light of the CISG on cases of non-conformity[33] and with CISG case law available which specifically deals with the issue of contamination, non-conformity and whether there was an obligation to take the goods,[34] Phil would be in trouble if he doesn’t know this.

Reasonable Time

Another issue Phil needs to consider, is notification under the CISG, even if the item does not conform with the specifications in the contract, the CISG requires that the Seller be notified within reasonable time or the right to claim is forfeited[35].

The CISG has been adopted into domestic legislation and because domestic law forms part of the agreement and applies CISG to a transaction even if the opposing party is not a CISG country so long as the choice of law is Australia, CISG applies, as held in  Playcorp Pty Ltd v Taiyo Kogyo Ltd [2003] VSC 108 ‘Playcorp’[36].

It has been held that CISG applies unless expressly excluded as noted by Bridge, “[t]here seems to be hardening in favour of the view that choice of law clauses in favor of the law of a Contracting State do not exclude the CISG”[37].

The trend in Australia in Commercial contracts for international sale of goods has been to opt-out of the CISG which in many cases may not be in the best interests of the client, who would be better served had CISG been the operative law[38].

Services can be captured by the CISG

The CISG can apply to services, not just goods, a client represented by Phil may be surprised to find that they may be liable for breach of a service contract pursuant to the CISG in certain circumstances[39], this is provided for in Article 3.
If an Australian Client supplied substantial materials to the Seller to transform and sell back to the Buyer, this might attract the CISG as it may be held the buyer is liable for the transformative process to the degree the quality of the materials supplied affects the quality of the product.  Where the value of the goods exceeds a 50% maximum threshold for transformation services[40], under CISG the seller may avoid responsibility.

When the service component is completed in Australia, Phil didn’t know that Arbitration clauses can be avoided in service contracts in certain circumstances, pursuant to S.106 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) on the grounds of being an unfair contract in terms of the effect the contract has on the Industry norms[41].

Australian Consumer Law may not apply

Goods bought for personal use are excluded under the CISG, as are stocks, shares, negotiable instruments and money, also ships, aircraft and the supply of electricity are excluded, as are auctioned goods and goods sold on execution of authority of law under Article 2.2.3.

Phil faces another problem with Article 2.2.4, he may not think the Convention applies and find himself captured by it regardless, because it was not explicitly excluded.[42] His arguments on common law contract validity and the effect which the contract may have on property if the goods sold, are excluded by the CISG[43].

If Phil relies upon such Australian cases when ultimately the CISG is the prevailing law, he may be applying precedents that globally have been criticized and have valid International precedents[44] from CISG cases and other external sources[45] used against him.  Much of Phil’s argument could be struck out[46] of court.

Phil didn’t know that the Interpretation of Legislation Act (1984) s.35 is in conflict with the CISG and to the extent of the conflict the CISG prevails, for start, the CISG has it’s own interpretive provisions in Article 7 that require it to be interpreted in light of its international character and the need to promote uniformity and good faith in international trade.

Article 7(1) CISG “excludes recourse to methodological theories of interpretation of domestic texts”[47] meaning use of domestic law in resolving interpretation of text covered by the CISG is explicitly excluded.  You can’t use domestic law to interpret CISG.

Phil is thrust into the CISG world where autonomous[48] interpretation[49] as seen in Playcorp where even if the other contracting party is from a Country that is not a member state of the CISG it still applies as Part of Australian Law which governs the Contract.  In doing so CISG is lifted autonomously above the domestic law and prevails in the event of inconsistencies.  It is to be interpreted under three CISG directives.  Having regard to the CISG’s International Character, promoting uniformity in application, and promoting good faith in International Trade[50].

Good Faith

Australian contract law has struggled to come to terms with “good faith” as a contract term[51], yet the CISG requires it in International Trade.

As Australia’s contract law values freedom of contract and economic independence, the High Court recently cast doubt upon whether good faith is an automatic term in contract law.[52]

However, in Australia, such an implied term appears to conflict with fundamental notions of caveat emptor that are inherent (statute and equitable intervention apart) in common law conceptions of economic freedom. It also appears to be inconsistent with the law as it has developed in this country in respect of the introduction of implied terms into written contracts which the parties have omitted to include.”[53]

“Good Faith” is not implied into a contract in Australia as it is with CISG, Phil might argue that good faith is not part of the contract as it is too vague and uncertain[54] as is the Australian position and that his client’s legitimate interests were being protected, which is not in breach of an express contractual term. Which in Australian contract law, he may be right, but here with CISG being the dominant law, that argument would fail.

Phil may find acting in good faith, in CISG terms, involves both parties acting in good faith, to each other, to the point of minimizing damages of the other party as much as favoring the party acting in its own “legitimate interests”,[55] to be seen as good faith.  To do an act that knowingly a party ought to realise is foreseeable to cause harm would be considered a breach of that good faith.

It would be easy to fall into the trap of relying on the Queensland decision of Downs Investments Pty Ltd (in liq) v Perwaja Steel SDN BHD [2002] 2 Qd R 462 ‘Downs’, which itself misinterpreted the application of the CISG in common law terms citing erroneously non-CISG cases of Robinson v Harman (1848) 1 Ex 850 and Hadley v Baxendale (1854) 9 Ex 341 ‘Hadley’ instead of focusing on Article 74 and International cases.  It’s a published decision that forms part of our Common Law after all.

However, CISG can be distinguished from our Common law in that Article 74 focuses on damages, and limits to it, to actual damages and lost profits for breach, and then limits it further to foreseeable damages which ought to have been known, the CISG views things from the perspective of the breaching party unlike our Common law and the cases cited in Downs which examines the ‘contemplation’ of both parties[56] this would not assist in a CISG argument.

To make things worse now for Phil, CISG Article 73 defines foreseeability as a ‘possibility’ whereas he relies on Common law in Hadley requiring ‘probability’. A significantly different standard of foreseeability, with ‘probability’ requiring the additional level of an objective reasonable person test of whether or not on the balance of probabilities it was more likely to happen, than not, that it is ‘probable’ that the event would occur.

Phil is in difficulty if his client is the one doing the breaching, the plaintiff just needs to prove that is was foreseeable, that it was possible, while Phil may argue to the wrong standard and cost his client avoidable damages.  Had Phil known the Court was obligated to determine the matter on CISG Jurisdiction, he may have submitted additional evidence to counter the foreseeability to a possibility standard.

Phil sees a case based on Victorian Law and relies upon the Goods Act (Vic) 1958 which requires that the goods be of a merchantable quality, where as now he finds himself in CISG Jurisdiction which requires fitness for intended purpose.

The higher standard of specific purpose requires that the seller disclosed to the buyer the specific purpose that the goods would be used for and required that the Seller confirm that the goods could meet that specific purpose as opposed to a merchantability standard, which just requires that the goods are fit for the general purpose they are intended for.

So while Phil argues that the goods the seller supplied were of merchantable quality, the buyer doesn’t care.  If the buyer asked can I use your microwave oven to melt glass safely? If the seller said yes, then it matters not that the microwave works perfectly for its general purpose it was intended for, if it can’t melt glass, it is not fit for the purpose.

In Conclusion;

Phil has a lot to learn.  A Corporate client with Phil as a lawyer would certainly be disadvantaged, a lawyer who has not studied CISG and International Commercial Law would be ill-equipped to advise a client on even drafting a contract, let alone litigating a dispute based on one.   Any commercial transactions in Australia involving the sale of goods internationally would need an experienced International Commercial Lawyer who is well versed in CISG.   As Australian Courts play catch up, they may entertain Phil and his arguments for a while, but if the dispute turned on application of the letter of the law, the Australian Courts will be obligated to follow the CISG and its application as a higher law when it comes to international contracts for the sale of goods.

 

Footnotes:
[1] United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods of 11 April 1980 ‘CISG’.

[2] Ibid.

[3] CISG: Table of Contracting States, accessed at http://cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/countries/cntries.html on 02/01/2018 at 1.27pm.

[4] Sale of Goods (Vienna Convention) Act 1987 (Vic) (repealed) now found in the Goods Act (Vic) ‘GAV’ S.85, Sale of Goods (Vienna Convention) Act has also been incorporated into all other States and Territories and the Trade Practices Act 1974(Cth) S.66a, now found in Competition and Consumer Act (Cth) 2010 – Schedule 2 The Australian Consumer Law, s.68.

[5] Roder Zelt and Hallenkonstruktionen GMBH v Rosedown Park Pty Ltd. (1995) ACSR 153, op cit.

[6] GAV S.86.

[7] Ibid S.87.

[8] CISG Database Country Case Schedule accessed at http://cisg.pace.edu/cisg/text/casecit.html on 02/01/2018 at 1.35pm.

[9] Spagnolo, L., “The Last Outpost: Automatic CISG Opt Outs, Misapplications and the Costs of Ignoring the  Vienna  Sales  Convention  for  Australian  Lawyers” (2009)  10 Melbourne  Journal  of  International Law 141, at p.142.

[10] Ibid, David Fairlie, ‘A Commentary on Issues Arising under Articles 1 to 6 of the CISG’ (Paper presented at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (‘UNCITRAL’) and Singapore International Abitration Centre Joint Conference, ‘Celebrating Success: 25 Years United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods’, Singapore, 22–3 September 2005).

[11] Benjamin Hayward, “The CISG in Australia–The Jigsaw Puzzle Missing a Piece” ‘Benjamin’, citing Zeller,

B., “Traversing International Waters” (2004) 78(9) Law Institute Journal 52, at p352.

[12] Ibid citing Finn, Justice P., “National Contract Law”, supra fn 7, at p.9.

[13] GAV S.85-87.

[14] Downs Investments Pty Ltd v Perwaja Steel SDN BHD [2001] QCA 433.

[15] Ibid at 21.

[16] Ibid at 2.

[17] Perry Eng P/L (Rec And Man Appt’d) V Bernold AG No. SCGRG-99-1063 [2001] SASC 15 (1 February 2001) ‘Perry’.

[18] Ibid at 15.

[19] Perry at 16.

[20] Ibid at 17.

[21] Roder Zelt-und Hallenkonstruktionen gmbh v Rosedown Park Pty Ltd & Anor [1995] FCA 275; 13 ACLC 776.

[22] Perry at 17.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Perry at 18.

[25] Ginza Pty Ltd v Vista Corp Pty Ltd  [2003] WASC 11 (Unreported, Barker J, 11 January 2003) ‘Ginza’.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ginza at [12]–[13], [16]–[18]. A related action between Ginza and a corporation related to Vista, Kontack Pty Ltd was consolidated with this action. Counterclaimed commission fees were admitted and are not relevant to the current discussion: see ibid [20].

[28] Ibid at [21], [214]. On damages for loss of goodwill under art 74.

[29] Ibid at [13], [16].

[30] Ibid at [190].

[31] Ibid at [124], [153].

[32] Ginza at [131], [152].

[33] ICC Award No 6653 of 1993 (1993) (22 per cent of steel bars outside specified weight tolerances); Engines for Hydraulic Presses and Welding Machines Case (Landgericht Düsseldorf, Germany, 23 June 1994) and ICC Award No 8740 of 1996 (coal contained 20 per cent rather than specified 32 per cent dry matter).

[34] International Flavors & International Flavors & Fragrances Inc.  IFF & Fragrances (Netherland) B.V. v Ramon Sabater SA heard in the Spanish Court of Appeal Audiencias Provinciales May 24, 2012.

[35] Spagnolo, Lisa — “The Last Outpost: Automatic CISG Opt Outs, Misapplications and the Costs of Ignoring the Vienna Sales Convention For Australian Lawyers” [2009] MelbJlIntLaw 10; (2009) 10(1) Melbourne Journal of International Law 141, A maximum time of two years for notice is imposed by art 39(2) of the CISG. However, normally a much shorter period is imposed by the requirement that notice be given within a ‘reasonable’ time: see  Model Locomotives Case (Kantonsgericht Schaffhausen, Switzerland, 27 January 2004) §3c (reasonable time in art 39 depends on the type of goods); Person of Greece v Ed Fruit and Vegetables BV (Rechtbank Breda, Netherlands, 16 January 2009) [3.12] (watermelons subject to decay, inadequate notification if not within days).

[36] Playcorp Pty Ltd v Taiyo Kogyo Ltd [2003] VSC 108 ‘Playcorp’.

[37] Benjamin at 201, Footnote [63]-[65].

[38] Lisa Spagnolo, The last Outpost: Automatic CISG Opt outs, misapplications and the costs of ignoring the Vienna Sales Convention for Australian Lawyers, Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol.10, ‘Spagnolo’.

[39] Ibid, Footnote [82].

[40] Ibid, Footnote [83]-[90].

[41] Metrocall Inc v Electronic Tracking Systems P/L (2000) 52 NSWLR 1.

[42] Olivaylle Pty Ltd v Flottweg GMBH & Co KGAA (No 4),  [2009] FCA 522; (2009) 255 ALR 632,  “CISG was excluded by the words ‘Australian law applicable under exclusion of UNCITRAL law’ at [28].

[43] CISG Article 2.2.4(b).

[44] Benjamin Hayward, The CISG’s place in Australian Law – An incomplete jigsaw puzzle, The jigsaw puzzle missing a piece (2010) 14 VJ 193 – 222 at 211, ‘Benjamin’ at 222.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Spagnolo Pg.55, 57.

[47] Spagnolo at 211., Schlechtriem, P.,  “Article  7” in  Schlechtriem,  P.and  Schwenzer,  I.(eds),Commentary  on  the  UN Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG), 2ndEnglish ed, 2005, Oxford University Press, New York, p.93, at p.96, para.12.

[48] Benjamin at 211.

[49] Playcorp Pty Ltd v Taiyo Kogyo Ltd [2003] VSC 108 (Unreported, Hansen J, 24 April 2003) at 235.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Marcus S. Jacobs QC, Professor Katrin Cutbush-Sabine, Philip Bambagiotti The CISG in Australia-to-date: An illusive quest for global harmonisation?” at 9.2, accessed at https://www.cisg.law.pace.edu/cisg/biblio/jacobs2.html#35 on 01/09/2018 at 8.58pm, ‘Marcus’.

[52] Ibid at 9.4.2 citing Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, v South Sydney City Council,[41] Kirby J.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Aiton v Transfield [1999] NSWSC 996 (1 October 1999).

[55] South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club Ltd v News Ltd & Ors [2000] FCA 1541 (3 November 2000) at [393, 394].

[56] Benhamin citing Spagnolo, L., “The Last Outpost”, supra note 6, at p.178.