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Lanciana v Alderuccio [2020] VSCA 152 - Part A

Brief Facts

The applicant and the Bloomingdale were equal beneficiaries in two trusts. The shareholder and director of Bloomingdale were Antonio Gangemi. The trustees of these trusts are itemized owners of these properties. One is situated in Mitchell Street and the other one in Stevedore Street, Williamstown. This was bought in the year 2001 when one of the trustees bought one property and the other another property. The difference of opinion between them arose when they both had to say there were different business dealings and different rights they possess. Therefore in 2003, they settled off on an agreement which said that the applicant shall have an interest in both of the properties. But in 2005, in the month of March, the respondents filed a caveat at the Land Titles Office regarding the ownership of these properties which the petitioner is a beneficiary of. These respondents are ‘Alderuccio Solicitors’ who operate a partnership firm as partners. However, they themselves weren’t a party but were representing another client by the name of Bloomingdale Holding Pty Ltd. (Bloomingdale). Their contention was, as per the deed of 2002, their client Bloomingdale had an equitable interest in the properties[1].

Under Section 118 of The Transfer of Property Act1958 (The Act), the applicants filed a suit wherein he demanded losses for the damage inflicted upon him by the suit of respondents. Under the given Section, if any person files any caveat before the Registrar, without any reasonable cause shall be liable to pay losses to the people who had to suffer loss or any considerable damages in lieu of his false suit or any compensation at the Court’s pleasure. In a simpler context, the applicant filed a compensatory suit against the respondents for their suit on the basis that in 2005 the respondents did not have any caveatable interest in the suit or is supposed to have any of such interest whatsoever.

  1. Issues-

The issue, in this case, was that should the respondent's claim be quashed as they had no basis in lodging the caveat and hence are they liable to indemnify the applicant. The applicant based their contention on a precedent.[2] In this, it was held that any person who has filed a caveat is not limited to the caveator but files it on behalf of any other person, so that person is liable to pay compensation under New Zealand.

The respondents based their assertion on two precedents.[3] As per these, is was the view of the court that under NZ rule of law, the phrase ‘lodging a caveat’ was narrowed to the party filing the caveat and the representing parties.[4] They also avowed Rule 47.04 of the Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2015. As per this rule, considering all the facts to be true at the face of it, interpreting the phrase'a person' it means any person filing the caveat under Section 118 of the Actor is the applicant liable to be paid compensation from the respondents, are to be considered to be caveator.

  1. Reason-

As per the statutory language, “any person lodges" is applicable on the solicitors. It means that the solicitors representing Bloomingdale also falls under this ambit as they have no basis to file the caveat since they hold no significance in the disputed property. The language of the statute is crystal clear as the legislators intended the person/persons who had an interest in the property to lodge the caveat. If not, then he or they are barred from lodging. Nevertheless, if they do so, under Section 118 they are liable to pay compensation to the victim. Therefore the respondents, the Alderuccio Solicitors, having no legitimate interest in the property were not entitled to file any caveat on behalf of Bloomingdale. As a result, their claim is frolicsome and they must compensate the applicant.[5]

 The statutory language of the Act shows the intention of the legislators to not limit Section 118 to the caveators but to other people who along with caveators files any claim. The Court must not take cognizance of the wording of Section 89 of the Act and should interpret the words of Section 118, literally. It is not acceptable to negate the wording of one Section and substitute it with the wording of another Section, something which is not even there in the first place. It was contended that restricting the phrase 'any person' just to the caveator also violates Section 37 (c) of the Interpretation of Legislation Act1984. According to this Section words that are singular must also incorporate the plural meaning of it. Therefore ‘any person’ even though suggesting a singular person, but must include other persons or people as well.

  1. Reason

The only dispute between the applicant and the respondent was that whose contention is to be upheld. Should the applicant contention be applicable that Section 118 must be interpreted literally and held that the Section intends to extend to not just a singular person who has filed a caveat but to other persons as well who have no interest in the caveat but have filed the caveat, or should the contention of respondents be applicable which states that the wording of any Section must be in consonance with the text as a whole and Section 118 should be read in relation with Section 89 of the Act? Section 89 states that any person who files a caveat on behalf of any person who had an interest in the land.

The jury had rejected the assertion kept forth by the applicant to make a literal interpretation of Section 118. They stated that the ‘any person lodging’ creeps out the question of ‘who lodges the caveat?’ This ambiguity was rectified after reading the given Section 118 with Section 89 of the Act. The starting of the Section is ‘any person claiming any estate or interest in the land..' shows that any person who has any relation with the land or the property. Such language is also used in Section 118 and therefore Section 118 and Section 89 cannot be read independently of each other. Moreover under Section 89, the ‘agent’ of the caveator has the authority to file a caveat which clearly indicates that the legislator did not want to narrow the application of these Sections to the caveator only. It is the solicitors who are appointed for filing any suit or being represented in the court of law. A lay-man is not entitled to have this power to assert his contention before the court. Hence the contention of the applicants stands invalid of not to be extending the scope of Section 118 to other people as well.

Based on the torts agency principle between Bloomingdale and Alderuccio Solicitors, it was held that the solicitors were not ‘any person’ after interpreting Section 118. As per this precedent,[6] it is the view of the court that any Section when read, has to be read in relation to the purpose and language of the Act. Hence Section 89 allows any person to lodge the caveat who has an estate or interest in the land. Hence the language of Section 118 and 89 are very similar as in both the legislators wanted to make the same inference as that made in Section 89. Also, it was held that Section 115 of the Act also subsist the given Section 118. As per this Section, the documents that have been filed to the Registrar shall be returned only on the will of the person filing it or any person who has been hired to do. Therefore as per Section 115, any person means any person who is filing the caveat and not just the caveator. 

Lanciana v Alderuccio [2020] VSCA 152 - Part B

Basing their argument on the case of,[7] the applicant contended that J Blanchard held that the phrase ‘any person lodging’ under Section 118 was not limited to the caveator but also extended to others and by extension the client and the solicitors or anyone who had lodged the caveat. Any of them of all of them shall be liable to pay compensation if found they did not any legitimacy to file it. It shall include solicitor’s clients, their registration agents and their employees. Hence the applicant’s contention was based on the precedents and seems to be justified. Hence on the basis, he claimed for compensation from Bloomingdale and their solicitors too as they were also parties in the caveat. The term 'any person' also gives this inference that any person shall be liable to pay the compensation. However, no Section must be read independently. It is to be read in relation to the whole statute and interpreted on that basis whether the Section justifies the intent of the statute or not. Hence if read separately, then Section 118 shall justify applicant contention that any person here is not just related to the caveator but any person who files the caveat. But when read with other Sections of the Act, then solicitor or any of the representing parties cannot be taken into account as their main purpose is to solve the dispute between the caveator and the applicant. Any solicitor or any representing parties are obligated to represent their clients as they are the ones who have the right to practice law. They have the legal license to stand in the court of law. Hence if not them, not there shall be no one to represent people. Alderuccio Solicitors were the representing parties to Bloomingdale have a right to lodge the caveat under Section 118 but that does not extend to the part where they shall be liable to pay compensation. The reliance of the jury on the agency principle is apposite. This means the agents or people who represent their clients in the court of law are independent parties and they have nothing to do with the compensation figures of their parties. Even if their clients win or lose, they have no share in that. Hence any compensatory burden or enjoyment are borne by the parties and not their agents.[8]

The respondents took their plea on the basis of two precedents.[9] It was contended that as per the provision of the New South Wales,[10] the wording of the provision, 'lodging the caveat' was limited to the person filing the claim before the Registrar. It has no relation with the parties representing such caveators. It was legitimate intention to include the term 'any person' to widen the horizon of the application of the Section but it does not mean that the solicitors, agents or representing parties are to be included in it. It might incorporate one who the executor of the estate who has not sought any validation or looking for any guardianship of the property. Hence the contention of the respondents has more weightage if compared with the applicant's contention. The Real Property Act1900 also not restrained to filing the caveat but it extends beyond that. It is related to people who wants to withdraw the application without any reasonable cause cannot do that.

If both the contentions of the respondent and the applicants are to be inferred so individually it seems that both are right. But when applying the Statutory Interpretation on the language of Section 118, then it seems more justified to not widen the scope of it to the solicitors as that would infringe the whole legal system. If any person is to have the agents and soliciting parties within its ambit then nothing any term of punishment or compensatory measure shall be applicable on such people too. Hence the justification of the court to interpret any provision as a whole in relation with its statute is the correct approach and hence the contention of the respondents also subsists.

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