Introduction to Business Law (BUS101) TRIMESTER 1 2014 GROUP ASSIGNMENT For details of how to submit the group answer, refer to the course outline Background explanation 1 The purpose of this assignment is to give students the opportunity to read an important judgement of a Superior Court and to extract from the judgments the reasoning of the respective judges in coming to their separate conclusions. 2 First, students must read in full the judgment of the High Court of Australia in Commercial Bank of Australia v Amadio. The judgement can be accessed via the link provided on Moodle. 3 The full details of what happened in the case are set out in the judgements delivered by the separate judges and students must read them. By way of short summary, to get you started: Mr and Mrs Amadio were immigrants to Australia of Italian birth, had a relatively poor command of English and limited business experience. They were induced by their son Vincenzo to sign a mortgage over property they owned to secure loans by the bank to their son, whom they believed to be successful. In fact, Vincenzo’s business was in a severe financial difficulties. The bank knew this, but relied upon Vincenzo’s explaining to his parents the nature of the mortgage transaction and of the documents they were signing. At the original hearing the bank was successful in defending the claims brought against it by the parents seeking to have the mortgage set aside. An appeal court reversed that decision and gave judgement for Mr and Mrs Amadio. The bank appealed against that decision to the High Court of Australia where the case was heard by four judges. It is the decision of that court that you will be reading. 4 You will see that of the four judges who heard the case in the High Court, three decided in favour of Mr and Mrs Amadio and one decided in favour of the bank. Therefore, Mr and Mrs Amadio were successful by a majority decision. 5 However, as between the three judges who decided in favour of Mr and Mrs Amadio, they did not all decide the case on the same legal grounds. 6 All students in each group should read the judgements then discuss as a group what answer the group will give, in its own words, to the questions below. If you are quoting passages from the judgments you must indicate the paragraph numbers from which your quotations are taken. (For each of the four separate judgements, there are chronologically numbered paragraphs, which start from 1 for each judgment.). 7 It is up to the group to decide which member or members will prepare the written answers (this task should be divided up among the group members so that preparing answers is shared). 9 If you need further guidance about how to go about the project ask your tutor. The questions you have to answer 1 What were the causes of action (claims) under which Mr and Mrs Amadio challenged the mortgage they had signed? 2 In reversing the decision of the trial judge, what three findings did the appeal court come to after its examination of the facts? 3 In the judgment of Justice Gibbs, what situation did he say would oblige a bank to inform a potential guarantor of the state of the customer’s account which is to be guaranteed; and what were the facts in this case which persuaded Justice Gibbs that the bank should have made such a disclosure? what was the ratio for Justice Gibbs’s decision of the case in favour of Mr and Mrs Amadio (i.e., on the basis of what legal issue or issues did the judge decide the case)? 4 In the judgment of Justice Mason (who decided the case in favour of Mr and Mrs Amadio but on different grounds): what was the ratio for his decision? how was it different from the ratio adopted by Justice Gibbs? what were the facts in the case which Justice Mason decided fitted the legal principles which he adopted as the ratio for his decision (ie, what were the facts about the positions of the bank on the one hand and of Mr and Mrs Amadio on the other hand which Justice Mason identified as satisfying the legal tests in the ratio for his decision)? 5 Justice Mason and Justice Deane both noted a legal difference between unconscionable conduct (unconscionability) and undue influence. Explain, in your own words, the difference which the two judges identified? 6 In the judgment of Justice Deane, Mr and Mrs Amadio were under a “special disability” when compared with the bank: what facts did Justice Deane identify in coming to the conclusion that Mr and Mrs Amadio were under a special disability? What was the ratio for Justice Deane’s decision in favour of Mr and Mrs Amadio? 7 Justice Dawson was the dissenting judge (i.e., he did not agree with the decisions of the other three judges who heard the case). In your own words explain Justice Dawson’s reasoning in concluding that the bank was in no way liable for Mr and Mrs Amadio’s having signed the mortgage which was disadvantageous to them. John Lanser May 2014
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