Unmeritorious proceedings and conduct causing disadvantage in QCAT

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The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) provides a quick, inexpensive, and informal way of having civil disputes resolved. However, it is still important that people only commence legal action where their case has legal merit, that is, where there is a possibility that they will be successful. It is also important that parties to a proceeding act in a way that is fair and just.

This factsheet outlines some of the risks in commencing proceedings that are unmeritorious or conducting your matter in a way that is unfair.

In this factsheet, "QCAT Act" refers to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld).

Commencing unjustified proceedings - s 47 QCAT Act

QCAT may dismiss or strike out proceedings it considers are:

  • Frivolous, vexatious, or misconceived;
  • Lacking in substance; or
  • Otherwise an abuse of process (s 47(1) QCAT Act).

The Tribunal can also order the party who brought the proceedings to compensate the other party for any reasonable costs, expenses, loss, inconvenience and embarrassment resulting from the proceeding (s 47(2)(c) QCAT Act).

Conduct causing disadvantage - s 48 QCAT Act

QCAT may dismiss or strike out proceedings if it considers that the person who brought the proceeding (the applicant) has acted in a way that unnecessarily disadvantages another party to the proceedings, including by:

  • Not complying with an order or direction of QCAT without reasonable excuse;
  • Not complying with the QCAT Act, an enabling Act or the QCAT Rules;
  • Asking for an adjournment as a result of the above conduct;
  • Causing an adjournment;
  • Attempting to deceive another party or QCAT;
  • Vexatiously conducting the proceeding; or
  • Failing to attend mediation or the hearing without reasonable excuse (s 48(1), QCAT Act).

If it is another party, rather than the applicant, who is causing the disadvantage, then QCAT can make its final decision in the applicant's favour or order that the party causing the disadvantage be removed from the proceeding (s 48(2) QCAT Act).

QCAT may also order the party who caused the disadvantage to compensate the other party for any reasonable costs incurred unnecessarily (s 48(2)(c) QCAT Act).

In making any of these orders, QCAT will consider:

  • Whether the party causing disadvantage is familiar with the tribunal's practices and procedures;
  • The party's capacity to understand, and act on, the tribunal's orders and directions; and
  • Whether the party is deliberately acting to disadvantage other parties (s 48(3) QCAT Act).

See for example, Irvine and Porter v Mermaids Cafe and Bar Pty Ltd and Ingall [2010] QCAT 393, where the Tribunal refused to dismiss proceedings as it was not satisfied that the respondents had been unnecessarily disadvantaged by the non compliance alleged to have been committed by the applicants with the directions of the Tribunal.

Restrictions on future proceedings - s 49 QCAT Act

If QCAT has ordered that a proceeding be struck out or dismissed under sections 47 or 48 of the QCAT Act, then any future proceedings of the same kind relating to the same matter can only be commenced with the permission of the President or Deputy President of the Tribunal (s 49 QCAT Act).

This provision does not apply to guardianship and administration proceedings (s 138A, Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (Qld)).

Adverse costs orders - s 102 QCAT Act

In QCAT proceedings, the general rule is that each party pays for its own costs of the proceedings (s 100 QCAT Act).

However, QCAT may order a party to pay another party's costs if the interests of justice require it (s 102 QCAT Act). The factors taken into account by QCAT in making a costs order include:

Whether a party has acted in a way that unnecessarily disadvantages another party; and

  • The relative strengths of the claim.
  • Costs may also be awarded if a reasonable offer to settle has been rejected.

Please see our factsheet Costs in QCAT for more information.

Contempt proceedings - s 218 QCAT Act

A person is in contempt of the Tribunal if they, among other things:

  • Contravene, without reasonable excuse, a non-monetary decision of the Tribunal (s 213 QCAT Act);
  • Provide false or misleading information (s 216 QCAT Act);
  • Improperly influence a person in relation to that person's participation in a proceeding (s 217 QCAT Act);
  • Insult a tribunal member, adjudicator, registrar or registry staff member;
  • Obstruct or assault a person attending a proceeding;
  • Obstruct or hinder a person from complying with a decision of the tribunal;
  • Unreasonably interrupt a proceeding or otherwise misbehaves;
  • Create or continue a disturbance in or near a place where the Tribunal is sitting;
  • Contravene an undertaking they have given to the Tribunal (s 218(1) QCAT Act).

If a person is found to be in contempt, QCAT has the same powers as the Supreme Court of Queensland to make orders against that person (s 219(1) QCAT Act). Such orders include issuing fines, excluding the person from the hearing and imprisonment.

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