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Lanciana v Alderuccio - Part A

Facts of the case-

The applicant was the beneficiary of two trusts. The trustees of the properties were situated in Mitchell Street and Stevedore Street. In 2001, the trustee of one property purchased one property and another other property. This lead to a dispute between the plaintiff and Gangemi on their rights and dealings on both of the properties. In 2003, this dispute got settled via an agreement that Gangemi and Bloomingdale's interests in both of the properties shall be transferred to the plaintiff. However again in 2005, the respondents, 'Alderuccio Solicitors' lodged a caveat on the title of the property on behalf of their client, Bloomingdale Housings Pty Ltd (Bloomingdale) claiming an interest in the equitable estate as per deed of trust on 2002. The sole shareholder and director of Bloomingdale was Antonio Gangemi.[1]

The applicants, under Section 118 of the Transfer of Property Act 1958 (The Act), bought a claim of compensation for the loss he suffered due to the suit of caveat the respondents filed. This claim was bought against the respondent and not their client, Bloomingdale. Section 118 states that where any person who lodges a caveat before the Registrar, without any reasonable cause, shall be liable to pay any of such people who had suffered loss or sustained damages, as compensation whatever the court may deem fit. This simply means that the applicant filed a claim of compensation on the defendants that in 2005 for the caveat which the respondents filed on behalf of the party Bloomingdale who had no right to file as they did not have any caveatable interest or that or may believe to have any caveatable interest.

  1. Issues –

The issue that was entailed in this case was whether under Section 118 of the Transfer of Property Act 1958 the respondent’s caveat could stand invalid as they had no basis to lodge one. The applicants relied on a case[2]which held that if any person who had lodged a caveat is not constrained only to the caveator but can hold out to any person filing the caveat and hence shall be liable to pay the compensation under New Zealand provision. 

However, the respondents asserted their contention on two case laws.[3] These case laws, under the New Zealand jurisdiction, had stated that the interpretation of the words 'lodging the caveat' was limited to the party filing the claim under caveat to the Registrar and not the party representing the caveator as held in a case.[4] They also asserted Rule 47.04 of the Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2015. The rule states that assuming the contention to be true for a while, whether the respondents are ‘a person’ filing the caveat with the Registrar under Section 118 of the Transfer of Property Act 1958, or whether the applicant is to claim compensation from the party to be identified as caveator. 

  1. Reason-

As per the contention raised by the applicant, under Section 118, the statute states ‘any person lodges.’ This extends to the solicitors representing Bloomingdale that since any person incorporates the solicitors as well; hence they have no basis to file the caveat as they have no interest in the property. The legislation states that any person who lodges a caveat must have an interest in the property. If not he cannot apply. Irrespective of that if he does, so he is liable to pay compensation to the victim party as the court deems fit. Hence even though the respondents were the solicitors of Bloomingdale, they filed a caveat under Section 118, therefore as per the statutory interpretation of the word 'any person' they are the parties to the claim, but since they have no legitimate claim on the properties, their claim is frivolous and they should pay the compensation to the applicants.[5]

The wording of the Section118 shows the clear intention of the legislature that they have broadened the ambit of the Section to not just the caveators, but other people as well. The court should interpret the words distinct from Section 89 and should take a literal interpretation of the wording of the legislation. It is nowhere justified for the court to negate the wording of any Section and substitute them with the words that are not even there in the Section. They stated the confining the words’ any person’ just to the caveator violates Section 37 (c) of the Interpretation of Legislation Act 1984. This Section states that words that are singular should include its plural interpretation. Therefore, the word 'any person must not be limited to the caveator, but also other people as well.

  1. Reason

The only argument that stood between the applicants and the respondents was that whether the word 'any person lodging' under Section 118 of the Transfer of Property Act 1958 should be given a literal interpretation and state that who lodged the caveat in the first place as the applicant claims or that as per the respondents, the same words are to be given an interpretation from a text as a whole and should be read along Section 89 in particular. Section 89 states that any person lodging in the context of ‘any person claiming any interest or estate in land.’

The learned jury rejects the applicant’s contention of interpreting the words literally. He stated that the term ‘any person lodging’ raises a question that ‘who lodges the caveat?’ This doubt was undisputedly got clarification after reading Section 89 of the Transfer of Property Act 1958. It starts with, 'any person claiming any estate or interest in the land.' He stated that he does not validate the applicant's contention on treating Section 118 and Section 89 independently as 'any person lodging' a caveat is a statutory statement and is a part of it since Real Property Act 1900. Furthermore, under Section 89, the ‘agent’ of the caveator has the authority to lodge a caveat. This totally negates the plaintiff contention that ‘any person’ should include the respondents too as the agents are not ‘any person.’ They are following the orders of their principal and hence they do not come under the same ambit. On the basis of the agency principle between Bloomingdale and the respondents, the judge held that the respondents were not ‘a person’ filing the caveat under Section 118. According to[6], the golden rule of statutory interpretation is to interpret any provision that is in coherence to the purpose and language of the Transfer of Property Act 1958 in totality. The purpose of Section 89 is to allow the filing of any application by a person who claims to have an interest in the land. The language of Section 118 is just the same as that of Section 89 wherein the legislature intends to point the same person as of Section 89 in Section 118.

Further, the judge also stated that his judgment was in consonance with Section 115 of the Transfer of Property Act 1958. It states that where any documents filed to the Registrar shall be returned or only on the command of the person who had lodged them in the first place or any person whom he hired to do so. Hence, under Section 115, a person who filed the caveat can be recognized beyond doubts.

So to conclude, the court of appeal used the principle of statutory construction and inferred that the language used in Section 118 was to be interpreted as a whole in consonance with the Transfer of Property Act and not to inferred individually. Section 118 has to be read with section 89 of The Transfer of Property Act 1958 which limits the application of the caveat to the caveator and nobody else. The agenda of the legislature was to give the power to file the caveat to the caveator only and not his solicitors.

Lanciana v Alderuccio - Part B

The applicant relied on the judgment of a New Zealand case[7] wherein the applicant asserted that that learned justice Blanchard had stated that the phrase ‘a person lodging a caveat’ in the NZ jurisdiction was not limited to the caveator but is also applicable on both the client and the solicitor, or any person responsible for filing the caveat. All of such people shall be liable to pay the compensation. This shall also include solicitor's clients, their registration agents and their employees. A layman would interpret the contention of the applicant, justifiable as his contention too stood on the same foot as in this precedent. He too claimed for the solicitor of Bloomingdale to pay the compensation as they were also a party in the caveat application. Interpreting the phrase 'any person' gives this assumption that any person who files a caveat shall be liable to pay the compensation. However, any section of a statute is not interpreted in its individual context. It is seen in consonance with the whole statute and that whether it suffices the agenda of the statute of not. Therefore, if taken individually, so Section 118 of the Transfer of Property Act 1958 totally justifies the point that ‘any person' means any person who is responsible for lodging the caveat. But when linked with other sections of the Transfer of Property Act 1958, whose main agenda is to solve the dispute between the caveator and the applicant, then the solicitors or the representing, parties cannot be taken into account. Any solicitor representing any party, they are just acting as agents to their principals on the ground that they have a legal license to practice law and stand before the court of law. If not this, anyone could walk into the court and present its case. Similarly, the Alderuccio Solicitors were practicising as agents of Bloomingdale and they have whole right to present their case before the court but this does not extend to the compensation part where they are to be considered 'any person' within the meaning of Section 118. The justification of the judge, relying on the agency principle is apt in this case as he interpreted it on the basis of it. Whoever represents their clients in the court of law are independent solicitors and they do not partake in the compensation of their parties. It is always the parties who have to bear the consequences of the judgment and no counsels.[8]

As for the respondents, they based their rebuttal on two cases[9]. They contended that as decided in case of Windlock[10] and Arkbay[11], the learned judges held that as per the New South Wales provision[12], the wording of the legislation ‘lodging a caveat’ was limited to the person who is making a claim to the Registrar. It does not extend to the parties representing the caveator. They stated that there was a reason why the words 'any person' was used to widen the ambit of the person filing the caveat but does not extends to the solicitors and filing clerks. This Section might include someone who is an executor of the estate who has not taken any probate or anyone seeking an order of guardianship. So if to make an inference out of this, then it seems fair on the part of the respondents. The court of appeal did not rely on the contention of the respondent so it shall be wrong to term that the respondent contention also stands upright. Individually, both the parties stated their precedents under the pretense of which they thought they have a strong claim. The court of appeal relied on the principle of statutory interpretation that the wording of Section 118 of the Transfer of Property Act 1958 did not mean that the solicitors are to be engaged in such a caveat petition and that a section should be read as a whole. So nowhere I feel that the contention of the respondent basing their argument on Windlock[13] and Arkbay[14] had any relation with the given facts of the case. The liability of the words 'any person' that has been confined by these acts has any justification. 

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