Jackson J: On 25 August 2014, a consent judgment was entered as between the plaintiff and the first defendant on the plaintiff’s claim. On the same day, a consent order was entered as between the plaintiff and the second defendant on part of the plaintiff’s claim, leaving a claim for damages for detention for the tort of detinue to be determined. These reasons deal with that claim. It was pleaded in the alternative as a claim for damages for conversion but the plaintiff pressed only the claim for damages for detinue in its closing address.
Black Diamond Group Pty Ltd, the plaintiff, carries on business hiring demountable accommodation buildings. A typical application is for a camp to accommodate workers employed in mining operations. Until some time this year, Manor of Maluka Pty Ltd (in liquidation), the first defendant, carried on business providing accommodation services at a site which is described as the Banana Accommodation Village or “the Banana Camp”, near Banana, in Central Queensland. For that purpose, it hired 21 buildings from a company. That company later assigned its property in the buildings and the benefit of the contract to the plaintiff.
An associate company of the first defendant, Go Country Catering Pty Ltd, provided catering services at the Banana Camp. The first defendant’s major customer was known as BAJV. The sole director and shareholder of the first defendant and Go Country Catering Pty Ltd was Robert Johnston.
Go Country Group Pty Ltd, the second defendant, was and is the proprietor of the land comprising the Banana Camp. Nicole Newman was and is the sole director and shareholder of the second defendant. She was and is the de facto partner of Robert Johnston. The second defendant purchased the land with the purpose of the first defendant developing and operating the Banana Camp on it.
Ms Newman said an agreement was made between her, for the second defendant, and Mr Johnston, for the first defendant that the first defendant would occupy or lease the land from the second defendant for $1,000 per month rent, and that at the end of the agreement the improvements were to remain with the second defendant as proprietor of the land.
As it turned out, the business venture of the Banana Camp was not successful. Shortly before Christmas 2013, BAJV terminated its contracts with the first defendant and Go Country Catering Pty Ltd. Thereafter, the camp was not used to provide accommodation, with two minor exceptions. The plaintiff’s accommodation units remained unused in those instances. For a time, the first defendant sought to interest other customers for the services, including accommodation services, that could be supplied by it and Go Country Catering Pty Ltd. The attempts were not successful. Mr Johnston had carriage of any negotiations.
Ms Newman worked for the first defendant in providing office administrative services throughout these events. She was aware of how matters were developing or progressing from time to time.
From a time in 2012 which it is now unnecessary to identify, the first defendant fell into arrears in the payment of its suppliers’ debts. That included the monthly instalments of hire payable for the plaintiff’s buildings…
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