New Zealand Law Society - Supreme Court roundup 25 February - 3 March 2022

Supreme Court roundup 25 February - 3 March 2022

Supreme Court roundup 25 February - 3 March 2022

Decisions, proceedings and news from the highest courts in some common law jurisdictions in the past fortnight.

New Zealand Supreme Court

Right of way, modification effects

Paihia Property Holdings Corporate Trustee Ltd v Body Corporate 190356 and anor [2022] NZSC 12 (24 February 2022)

Unsuccessful leave application – PP sought leave to appeal against CA allowing BC and CY appeal from HC - CY owned and operated resort comprising 28 principal units – BC  owned common property and land on which resort operated -  PP owned property next door to resort – Dispute over right of way easements – HC did not accept  modification of right of way would make access to resort troublesome, compromise parking and an existing resource consent, or increase noise – HC made order PP sought modifying easements – CA agreed with HC  on matters such as modification  effects on parking, noise – But allowing resort’s appeal, saw more significant questions relating to PP’s future development of land and likelihood there would be building close to boundary if right of way relocated –

First proposed appeal ground whether consideration of “incidental benefits/effects” part of New Zealand law; Second, whether reliance on such benefits/effects in this case breached principles of natural justice; Third, PP wished to argue CA wrong to draw inference  previous owner and operator of benefited land considered current location of easements as optimal – SC did not believe any proposed appeal ground raised questions of general or public importance or of general commercial significance – Rather, proposed appeal would require considering CA application of law to particular facts here – No appearance of miscarriage of justice in civil sense – Application dismissed.

Plant variety rights, infringement, permanent injunction

Gao and ors v Zespri Group Ltd [2022] NZSC 13 (1 March 2022)

Unsuccessful leave application – Z held exclusive plant variety rights (PVRs) under Plant Variety Rights Act 1987 (PVR Act) to propagate for commercial production G3 and G9 varieties of golden kiwifruit - Between 2013–2014, Zespri granted licenses to grow G3 and sell fruit produced (G3 License Agreements) to G, X and their company – Z later commenced proceedings against the applicants, alleging they had engaged in conduct breaching Z’s exclusive PVRs in New Zealand and G3 License Agreements – HC awarded damages of $14,894,100 against G and company each for acts infringing Z’s New Zealand PVRs and damages of $10,824,300 against G and X jointly for acts infringing Z’s contractual rights – HC also granted Z permanent injunction against G, X and company restraining them from further infringing Z’s PVRs in G3 and G9 varieties – Their appeal to CA appeal largely unsuccessful, only succeeding on narrow liability and quantum points –

SC said proposed appeal related to particular circumstances - No point of general or public importance arose – Nor do the submissions point to any matters that would suggest that largely concurrent findings of Courts below may have been wrong – Application dismissed.

FTA, farm sale, capacity representation, “no-reliance” clause, causation, contribution

Graham and anor v Shabor Ltd [2022] NZSC 14 (1 March 2022)

Unsuccessful leave application – G sought leave to appeal part of CA judgment allowing Shabor Ltd (S) appeal – Proposed to raise various questions about approach taken to S’s claim under Fair Trading Act 1986 (FTA) for misleading or deceptive conduct – G advertised farm for sale as “comfortably winter[ing] 7,500 plus stock units with capacity for more” (Capacity Representation) – Despite S’s  efforts to increase carrying capacity became clear farm could not carry 7,500 stock units over winter – S brought proceedings against G for misrepresentation and breach of s9 FTA  –

HC said Capacity Representation misleading as actual carrying capacity materially lower – But FTA claim failed because HC said “no-reliance” clause broke chain of causation between Capacity Representation and S’s loss –

S successfully appealed to CA against finding that no-reliance clause broke causation chain – CA agreed with HC that S “failure to include some contractual protection in the tender justified a reduction” in damages – CA reduced damages award by 30 percent – Said HC put more weight on S’s conduct than warranted –

On leave application, SC agreed with S – Whether purchaser misled by Capacity Representation a question of fact, as both HC and CA recognised – First proposed appeal  ground did not raise any matters of general commercial significance but, rather, complaint directed to assessment of particular facts – On second proposed appeal ground, SC said case not an appropriate vehicle for Court to consider place of disclaimer clauses in claims under FTA – Final proposed ground challenged CA assessment of appropriate reduction in damages on specific facts – Leave criteria not met – Application dismissed.

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

1888 Order, prescription, statutory powers

Ciel Ltd and anor v Central Water Authority [2022] UKPC 2 (14 February 2022)

Unsuccessful appeal from Mauritius SC - Réunion allocated shares in water rights in Tatamaka river under a Mauritius Supreme Court  Order in 1888 (1888 Order) – Original Order lost and no copies of it existed – Additional temporary rights granted in 1939, although Supreme Court then attached conditions - Réunion built a canal (Réunion canal) by which it abstracted water from Tatamaka River – Réunion formed partnership with another company, transferring its water rights to partnership – Réunion sold part of its land to CIEL – TKL was a tenant on that land – TKL used waters from the river, via Réunion canal, to carry on its knitwear business, which involved dyeing –

CWA said entitled to payments for TKL's use of water for industrial purpose - TKL and CIEL said charges not due because: (i) they owned water pursuant under 1888 Order or by prescription; (ii) CWA did not supply water for purpose of its statutory powers to charge for water use; and (iii) CWA’s claim barred by prescription –

PC unanimously dismissed appeal – Said Rivers and Canals Act 1863 governed water rights – Act provided rivers were public property while waters in a canal belonged to those who paid for its construction (which in this case was Réunion) – TKL and CIEL could not invoke rights granted in 1888 Order - Had not proved the terms of those rights, and PC could not assume rights were unconditional simply because 1888 Order lost - Since rivers were public property, Réunion’s right to a share in the river waters not a private right of property that it owned and could sell or transfer - 1888 Order merely conferred right to use water for irrigation and then return it to river – TKL used water for industrial purposes rather than for irrigation – It did not help case that TKL used waters from the Réunion canal, rather than the river itself – No distinction in Mauritian law between waters abstracted from river in canal and waters in river itself - Still had to be shown that waters in canal were lawfully obtained from river – TKL and CIEL failed to show this – River waters formed part of public domain and could not be acquired by prescription under Mauritian law –

Central Water Authority Act 1971 (1971 Act) set up CWA – CWA had power to levy charges for water supply but not regarding existing water rights – PC rejected argument that CWA could not recover charges for water TKL used – Regulations made under 1971 Act permitted CWA to receive "any money properly accruing to the Authority from any other source" – Constituted an independent source of power for CWA to charge for water supply – PC agreed with SC that CWA therefore entitled to charge TKL for water use –

Prescription did not bar CWA's claim for charges against TKL – Ordinary 10-year period under Civil Code of Mauritius applied – Shorter three-year period, which applied to periodic payments payable in pre-agreed fixed amounts, not applicable because there no evidence of any such agreement – Appeal dismissed.

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