A day’s work as a taxi driver could take you to places you least expect.
On a cool Queensland winter morning, I received a message from the receptionist for the building at our Goodna office. Someone simply wanted to ask a question because there was a sign at reception about Salvos Legal Humanitarian offering free legal advice.
When I walked outside, Lauren introduced herself to me. Lauren, a taxi driver, had just dropped someone off at the building, and seeing the sign stating free legal advice was available, she thought she would try her luck. I invited Lauren to have a seat and give me a summary of her legal matter. If we could assist, I would have her make an appointment for our Tuesday advice bureau here in Goodna. If we could not assist, I could then refer her to another firm.
Before I could say much, Lauren used a phrase I have heard quite often, “My situation is really complicated.” Lauren went on to say there was a judgment made against her four years ago in the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for a fairly large sum of money she owed to a contractor engaged to do some work for her. Lauren accepted the decision and had every intention of paying. So, she was confused why there was now an enforcement order made against her in the Queensland Magistrates Court. Quite abruptly, Lauren rose from her chair and said she had the documents in the car. When Lauren quickly returned and placed a small binder of documents in my hand, I formed the view I could not make an appointment for the following day. This matter had to be dealt with immediately.
Lauren always wanted to pay her debt. In fact, seven days after the QCAT decision, Lauren went to the bank and had a cheque drawn in the exact amount owed to the business. Lauren went one step further and had the cheque sent to the business on the same day by registered post. However, some days later after sending the cheque the registered envelope was returned to Lauren with a Return to Sender stamp. Lauren then did some research and found out the business had gone into liquidation. In the ensuing years, Lauren made contact with the solicitors acting for the liquidators and advised them she still held a cheque for the business. However, Lauren received no response and when she did, was told the solicitors no longer acted for the liquidators.
Fast forward four years and Lauren received an enforcement order in the post. How could this be? Lauren had already made several attempts to pay her debt. It was as if no one wanted her money until years later. Lauren wanted to know what to do. Having read the documents, I decided Lauren could benefit from our assistance.
The solicitors in our Goodna office jumped into action and first made contact with the former solicitors for the business who confirmed they no longer acted for the liquidator. When we called the new law firm, we were also told they too did not act for the liquidator. We were then referred to the business owner. In our first telephone conversation with the owner, he initially seemed surprised Lauren was legally represented and wanted to know why Lauren had not paid her debt. As the conversation unfolded, it became clear, the business owner was aware of our client’s past attempts to settle the debt. However, the business owner was dissatisfied with the QCAT decision and as a result, the business owner refused to accept the cheque four years ago and brought an application for an enforcement order claiming Lauren had failed to pay her debt. Fortunately, Lauren had the evidence to show the contents of the affidavit filed and served by the business owner was completely inaccurate.
Within days, we assisted Lauren in preparing an affidavit seeking an order that the ex parte enforcement order be set aside. We also suggested that Lauren consider making an offer to the business owner if an offer would finalise the matter. Lauren chose to file documents in the Magistrates Court and serve the business owner. The affidavit clearly set out all the steps Lauren had taken in the past to settle her debt.
On the day the matter was listed in the Magistrates Court, the business owner failed to attend Court. However, the Magistrate ordered Lauren to deposit the sum of money originally owed to the business owner into the Registry of the Court and the Magistrate would carefully review the documents filed by the parties and make a decision.
For almost two weeks, Lauren waited nervously for the outcome. Finally Lauren received the decision with the Magistrate making an order that Lauren pay the original amount owed. The business owner was not happy and sought clarification from the Magistrate. The response from the Magistrate was that there was overwhelming evidence to support Lauren’s claim that she had done everything she could to satisfy her debt and it was the business owner who had acted in an unscrupulous manner.
Were it not for that serendipitous encounter on that cool winter Queensland morning, Lauren’s legal issue could have had a significantly different outcome.