Linville Holdings Pty Ltd v Fraser Coast Regional Council (No 2) [2018] QSC 62

On the 6 November 2017, Jackson J of Brisbane’s Supreme Court handed down his decision in the matter of Linville Holdings Pty Ltd v Fraser Coast Regional Council [2017] QSC 252. Ultimately, his Honour concluded that for each of the financial years ending 30 June 2015, 30 June 2016 and 30 June 2017, the Fraser Coast Regional Council (FCRC) failed to validly make and levy rates and charges in accordance with the Local Government Act 2009.

Following this, Linville applied for an order for costs of the proceeding on the basis that on 23 March 2017, FCRC had rejected their offer to compromise. In doing so, Linville relied on the principle in Calderbank v Calderbank to argue that costs should be assessed on the indemnity basis.

However Jackson J contended that the refusal to accept a Calderbank offer did not of itself warrant the exercise of the courts discretion to award indemnity costs. Instead, he argued that a court must also consider whether the rejection of the offer was unreasonable in the circumstances.

Here, the Calderbank offer of compromise required that the FCRC compromise both the present proceeding and the related Magistrates Court proceeding. Although this was unusual, Jackson J concluded that “if FCRC agreed to waive those rates and charges in order to make the declarations sought in the present proceeding unnecessary, it was not unreasonable for Linville to propose the settlement of the Magistrates Court on similar terms.”

Despite this, the court held that just as Linville’s offer was not unreasonable, nor was FCRC’s rejection of it. Specifically, Jackson J contended that it was reasonable for FCRC to take into account that the course proposed by Linville would have favoured Linville over other ratepayers and that FCRC instead sought to have the matter resolved by judgment.

Thus, it was held that while FCRC should be ordered to pay Linville’s costs, the costs should not be assessed on the indemnity basis.