Ah Sam v Mortimer [2021] NSWCA 327 (17 December 2021) (Basten, Payne and Brereton JJA)


Catchwords:


CONTRACTS – Unconscionable conduct – Special disadvantage – Contract for sale of 50% of real property – Advertisement by respondent for $300,000 – One page agreement for $250,000 presented by appellant – Other terms of agreement improvident – Respondent suffering from very poor eyesight – Appellant aware or ought to have been aware of such facts – Appellant unable to surmount high bar for overturning demeanour-based findings that respondent could not read agreement and was unaware of different price – Special disadvantage established – Agreement void – Appeal dismissed

CONTRACTS – Remedies – Specific performance – Appellant unable to demonstrate that ready, willing, and able to complete – No entitlement to specific performance in alternative that agreement not void

EQUITY – Equitable remedies – Equitable compensation – Order setting aside agreement for unconscionability conditional upon party obtaining relief doing equity – Insufficient evidence of appellant’s expenditure on property or of enhancement to property’s value – Any entitlement offset by appellant’s rent-free enjoyment of property despite void agreement – No compensation payable

APPEALS – Procedural fairness – Bias or apprehension of bias – Interventions by primary judge during appellant’s questioning of witnesses – Rejection of evidence and strong adverse findings – Allegations that primary judge lied – Late grant of leave to respondent to amend pleadings – No bias demonstrated

CIVIL PROCEDURE – Hearings – Adjournment – Appellant received material from respondent shortly before taking of evidence – Evidence had been served long before – Submissions did not commence for another three weeks – Ample time to respond – No injustice identified

CIVIL PROCEDURE – Hearings – Procedural Fairness – Use of audio-visual link – Technology imperfect but no resulting injustice identified

CIVIL PROCEDURE – Pleadings – Amendment – Late application for amendment – Primary judge suggested that respondent amend originating process to explicitly plead unconscionability – Case always conducted on basis of unconscionability – No injustice identified