Manday Investments Pty Ltd v Commonwealth Bank of Australia (No 3) [2012] FCA 751 (13 July 2012)

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2012/751.html

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE – whether the applicants had a reasonable prospect of success in pleading misleading or deceptive conduct by the bank’s reliance on allegedly inaccurate property valuations – application for summary judgment by respondent bank and valuers pursuant to s 31A Federal Court Act 1976 (Cth) and r 26.01 Federal Court Rules 2011 – what onus if any on a party when all relevant evidence is held by the other

CONTRACT – whether the applicants had a reasonable prospect of success in pleading breach of implied term of loan contract by the bank’s reliance on allegedly inaccurate property valuations

Held: applicants’ breach of implied contractual term pleading should be summarily dismissed because the loan contract had expired and no automatic right of renewal

TRADE PRACTICES – reliance and causation – consideration of applicants’ conduct in chain of causation causing loss and reliance on valuations – held the respondents’ causation argument (that the actions of the bank were unaffected by the valuations) could not be determined summarily because the question of what the bank would have done had the property valuations been higher could only be determined at trial by testing the evidence

Held: however that the respondents’ reliance argument should succeed insofar as the ‘indirect causation theory’ could not apply as there was no evidence that the applicants relied on the valuation at any time, they were not misled by the valuation and their own actions in selling the property were the cause of the loss

The Bank and the Valuers particularly rely upon a judgment of Gordon J in Jefferson Ford Pty Ltd v Ford Motor Company of Australia Ltd [2008] FCAFC 60; (2008) 167 FCR 372 where her Honour said (at [127]):

Thirdly, each case must be considered separately. No particular hard and fast rules can be set down, only general principles. One principle is that the moving party bears the onus of persuading the court that the opponent has no reasonable prospect of success (see Crayford Freight Services Ltd v Coral Seatel Navigation Co (1998) 82 FCR 328 at 333). As noted earlier, however, s 31A has lessened the standard that must be met. In that regard, it must be emphasised that once a moving party has established a prima facie case that the opponent has no reasonable prospect of success, the opposing party must respond by pointing to specific factual or evidentiary disputes that make a trial necessary; general or non-particularised denials will be insufficient to defeat the motion: see Fortron Automotive Treatments Pty Ltd v Jones (No 2) [2006] FCA 1401 at [22]. In other words, it is inappropriate in defence of a claim for judgment under s 31A of the [Act] to seek to defend by merely putting a claimant to formal proof: Vans Inc v Offprice.Com.Au Pty Ltd [2006] FCA 137 at [12]. This is not a new concept. It finds earlier reflection in ss 190(4) and 191 of the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth) and O 33, 34 and 34B of the Federal Court Rules 1979 (Cth).