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Supreme courts roundup, 24 to 30 January 2020

30 January 2020

Decisions, proceedings and news from the highest courts in some common law jurisdictions in the last week are as follows:

Supreme Court of New Zealand

No decisions released during this period

High Court of Australia

No decisions released during this period

Supreme Court of Canada

9354-9186 Québec inc. v Callidus Capital Corp [2020] SCC
23 January 2020). Successful appeals from the Court of Appeal of Quebec (Montreal).

Reasons to follow.

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal

No decisions released during this period

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council

Shanda Games Ltd v Maso Capital Investments Ltd [2020] UKPC 2 (27 January 2020). Unsuccessful appeal from the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands.

Decision regarding the fair value on the non-applicability of a minority discount point following a decision of the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands - The first appeal was brought by minority shareholdersin ShandaGames Ltd (Shanda) known as the Maso parties concerning the meaning of ‘fair value’ specifically whether it means there should be a discount to reflect that the dissenting shareholders do not have control of the company or whether it means a pro rata share of the full value of the company, as it has been held to mean in Delaware law – The second appeal concerned the determination of a fair rate of interest.

Pearson (in his capacity as Additional Liquidator of Herald Fund SPC (in Official Liquidation)) v Primeo Fund (in Official Liquidation) [2020] UKPC 3 (27 January 2020).Unsuccessful appeal from the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands.

The appeal was brought by the additional liquidator of Herald Fund SPC principally concerning his proposal to implement “the net investment method” as the basis for distributing the surplus assets of Herald to its members – Whether the liquidator’s power to rectify the company’s register of members confined to an alteration which brings the register into line with the members’ underlying legal rights as at the commencement of the liquidation – Alternatively, whether it is wide enough to enable the liquidator to amend the register of members in a way which alters the members’ legal rights, as at the commencement of the liquidation, so as to do what the liquidator conceives to be substantial justice as between the members, in a case in which, in the liquidator’s view, justice would not be achieved by a distribution of the surplus assets of the company in accordance with their legal rights, as stated in the register.

Saunders v R [2020] UKPC 4 (27 January 2020). Unsuccessful appeal against conviction and sentence from the Court of Appeal of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

The appellant was convicted by a majority of the rape of the complainant in June 1993 – He unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Appeal in the Bahamas – Whether the prosecution failed to provide to the defence samples of DNA evidence for independent analysis – Whether the trial judge misdirected on the standard of proof – Whether there was defective direction of corroboration – Whether the judge’s direction on circumstantial evidence was appropriate and fair – Whether the summing up was fair.

Supreme Court of Ireland

No decisions released during this period

Singapore Court of Appeal

Public Prosecutor v GCK [2020] SGCA 2 (22 January 2020). Successful appeal from a High Court decision allowing the respondent’s appeal against conviction.

The respondent, a male employee at a nursing home, was charged and convicted at first instance of one charge of outrage of modesty (OM) – The victim, was unfit to testify as she was suffering from serious physical and cognitive disabilities – The prosecution’s case rested on the testimony of an eyewitness, a female nurse at the rest home – On appeal the HC judge acquitted the respondent of the OM charge – The HC judge appeared to suggest that the “unusually convincing” standard applied to an alleged victim’s testimony, but a different standard applied to an eyewitness’s testimony, that the “unusually convincing” standard applied to sexual offences, but a different standard applied to non-sexual offences and that an eyewitness’s observations were of less value than those of an alleged victim – What is the standard to be applied when evaluating the evidence of an eyewitness to a crime, where the evidence is uncorroborated and forms the sole basis for a conviction.

Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

FMX Foods Merchants Import Co Ltd v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs [2020] UKSC 1 (29 January 2020). Successful appeal from the Court of Appeal.

This appeal concerns the imposition by the appellant (HMRC) of customs duty on various importations of garlic into the UK made by the respondent (FMX) between 2003 and January 2004 - The goods were falsely declared to be of Cambodian origin - The garlic was in fact of Chinese origin and thus subject to a quota payment and to anti-dumping duty - HMRC issued a post-clearance demand on 1 April 2011 for customs duty on these importations in the sum of £503,577.63 (the Demand) - Prior to the issue of the Demand, the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) dismissed an appeal by FMX against a post-clearance demand issued on 22 February 2007 for duty in respect of similar imports by FMX that occurred after January 2004 (the Earlier Demand) - However, the FTT allowed an appeal from the Demand on the basis that it was communicated to FMX after the expiry of a three-year time limit specified by Article 221(3) of the Customs Code, and that Article 221(4) could not be relied upon to override that time limit - The FTT decision was overturned by the Upper Tribunal (UT) which decided that the communication of the Demand was not time-barred - The Court of Appeal allowed a further appeal, deciding that the time limit under Article 221(3) of the Customs Code applied - HMRC now appeals to the Supreme Court - Whether customs duty is irrecoverable in circumstances where communication of the customs debt occurred three years after the debt was incurred, in light of the time limit imposed by Article 221(3) of the "Customs Code" (Regulation EEC/2913/92, as amended by Regulation EC/2700/2000).

Supreme Court of the United States

Retirement Plans Committee of IBM v Jander 589 U.S._(2020) (14 January 2020). Successful appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Whether plaintiffs can state a claim against retirement-plan fiduciaries for breach of duty of prudence by alleging that the costs of undisclosed fraud grow over time.

Ritzen Group, Inc v Jackson Masonry 589 U.S._(2020)  (14 January 2020). Unsuccessful appeal from the U.S Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Ritzen Group, Inc. (Ritzen) sued Jackson Masonry, LLC (Jackson) in Tennessee state court for breach of a land-sale contract – Jackson filed for bankruptcy - The state-court litigation was put on hold by operation of 11 U. S. C. §362(a), which provides that filing a bankruptcy petition automatically “operates as a stay” of creditors’ debt-collection efforts outside the umbrella of the bankruptcy case - Whether a creditor’s motion for relief from the automatic stay in bankruptcy proceedings initiates a distinct proceeding terminating in a final, appealable order when the bankruptcy court rules dispositively on the motion.

Last updated on the 30th January 2020