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Magistrate Follixows of the Townsville Magistrates Court is presiding over a difficult contract law case, involving interpretation of common law principles. Her Honour has to decide whether damages for loss of reputation can be claimed by an Events Management Company against a Bus Service Provider who arrived late to an event. In the current case, the Bus Service Company was due to pick up clients from an event at 7pm in the Townsville CBD. The Bus did not arrive until 8pm and several people from the event used social media to criticise the organisational skills of the Events Management Company. You can assume that there is no Commonwealth or State legislation which relates to the issue. There are six decisions that have been handed down by other Courts on the same issue:
Which case should Magistrate Follixows of the Townsville Magistrates Court follow? Why? (16 marks)
The Entertainment Premises Control Act 2013 (Qld) (EPCA) has been recently amended. During a radio interview on 31 August 2015, the day before the amending legislation was passed by the Queensland parliament, the Minister for the Arts and Entertainment made the following comments:
Queenslanders are sick and tired of violence. There have been too many tragic injuries and deaths in our nightclub precincts in recent months. Some of the injuries have actually been caused by nightclub staff, which is completely unacceptable. We are contemplating adopting the New South Wales approach of lockouts and exclusion zones but in the meantime we have amended the Entertainment Premises Control Act to tighten up security. Security officers will now need to have a security certificate, which will only be issued once they have completed a training course. Weapons will be banned on nightclub premises. Not just illegal weapons but anything that can be used to inflict harm – the airlines have banned tweezers and nail files and so should nightclubs. Vicious and aggressive animals will be banned in nightclubs too. This is in response to the recent incident on the Gold Coast when a bikie brought his Alsatian dog into a nightclub to terrorise the patrons.
The Paradise Palms entertainment centre in Townsville, in North Queensland, is that city's premier entertainment venue. It operates around the clock offering bars, theatres and conference facilities. Its most popular facility is the Palm to Palm lounge which offers live entertainment seven days a week from 9pm until 3am.
The early hours of 30 September 2015 were particularly tumultuous at the Palm to Palm lounge.
At 1:00 am an altercation broke out at the bar of the lounge. A nightclub security officer, Patrick Kindly, attempted to confiscate a nail file owned by one of the patrons of the lounge, Emily Vane. Vane, who had been filing a broken nail while she sat at the bar, refused to give Kindly the nail file. When Kindly told her that he was authorised to confiscate weapons such as the nail file, Emily laughed out loud, waved it in his face, and told him to 'back off'. Kindly responded by grabbing the nail file, causing Emily to lose her balance and fall to the floor. As a result of the fall, Emily's arm was broken.
At 2:00 am Kindly was in trouble again. A local identity, Mickey 'the Mouse' Lawlor arrived at the lounge. Mickey was a disability pensioner. He had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder after surviving a shark attack in 2012. Mickey's nickname came from the fact that he always carried his very placid pet mouse in his pocket. Mickey claimed that knowing the mouse was with him made him feel calm and in control.
Everyone in Townsville knew of Mickey's eccentric mouse habit, including Kindly. Kindly said to Mickey, 'Sorry mate, you can't stay here. Animals aren't allowed on the premises'. Mickey left the Palm to Palm lounge but said he would be contacting the licensee to complain about his officious treatment.
Patrick Kindly has a current security certificate issued by the Department of Health. The licensee of the Paradise Palms is Trevor Old. Advise Trevor Old as to whether the events of the evening of 30 September 2015 have given rise to any breaches of the EPCA by him or any other person. (30 marks)
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To determine the case which should be regarded as a precedent by Magistrate Follixows of the Townsville Magistrate Court, it is important to appreciate the facts of the current case. The reason why it is pertinent to examine the facts of the case is it may lay out several important facets that are essential but might go unnoticed.
In the present case, an Event Management Company has sued a Bus Service Company for its default in delaying to perform its contractual obligations. The Event Management Company has claimed to have suffered a loss in its reputation due to the criticism it has received in the social media for the poor organisational skills. While the case deals with contract law, the specific remedy claimed by the Plaintiff i.e. the Event Management Company is the damages on account of the loss of reputation. Now, the case is before the Townville Magistrate Court where the cause of action has arisen and the Hon'ble Magistrate Follixows has to determine the particular case to be considered as a precedent before adjudicating on the matter.
The Doctrine of Precedent: An Overview
Before deciding the particular case to be followed by the Townsville Magistrate Court, it is imperative to gain an understanding of the Doctrine of Precedent. It is clear that the Australian legal system is based on common law principles. The Doctrine of Precedent is one of the most important principles of the common law system. The idea behind the importance of this doctrine is the fundamental objective of the common law system i.e. to develop a coherent system of jurisprudence in deciding cases which involve similar facts. Therefore, the judges are obliged to give due regard to the previous decisions on a similar matter in their endeavour to apply the law in a consistent and predictable way.
It is for the aforesaid reasons only that as per Section 73 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, the judgement given by the Apex Court i.e. the High Court of Australia in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction is regarded as final and conclusive. The finality of this judgement is one of the prime reasons why there is strong restraint on the lower courts in exercising their judicial powers.