Statement of Claim

In Gunns Limited and Ors v Alexander Marr and Or et ales [2005] VSC 251 a number of material defects hampered the litigation of the plaintiff’s claim. Having changed attorneys three times and amended the Statement of Claim four times the plaintiff’s claim remains pending and uncertain. The primary complaint by the defendants was and remains that the plaintiff’s claim offended the Rules of the Supreme Court to the extent that it was impossible to understand the claim with sufficient clarity and it therefore compromised the defendant’s ability to respond.

Background The plaintiff’s initial Statement of Claim consisting of 216 pages was filed on December 13th 2004 and listed 17 individual defendants as well as three corporate defendants. Gunns Limited, a wood cutting entity brought an action against the defendants arising out of anti-deforesting protests championed by the various defendants. In the early part of the following year various defendants requested of the plaintiff further and better particulars. The plaintiff’s claims were founded on the law of tort and claimed both general and special damages.

The primary difficulty for the defendants were discerning from the language of the Statement of Claim the legal basis for each claim and the factual background giving rise to the various claims. At a Directions Hearing on 11 March 2005 the judge expressed “concerns about” the “Statement of Claim. ” At a second Directions Hearing on April 8, 2005 an order was made for further and better particulars to the Statement of Claim. On July 18, 2005 an application filed by a majority of the defendants for the Statement of Claim to be struck out was awarded by the court.

The court’s order effectively struck out the initial Statement of Claim and the Amended Statement of Claim which included responses to the defendant’s requests for further and better particulars. The plaintiff was allowed one month to prepare “a new Statement of Claim. ” On August 15, 2005 the plaintiff served the defendants with a third and new Statement of Claim containing 221 pages. What followed was another round of requests for further and better particulars and the response was not well received with the result that the defendants made another application to strike out the Statement of Claim.

This application was heard in March 2006 and the judge ordered that the plaintiff “compile further and better particulars and correct” the “Statement of Claim”. At the end of March 2006 the plaintiff filed and served a 4th Statement of Claim containing 641 pages. On August 28, 2006 at yet another hearing for striking out the judge ordered the entire Statement of Claim struck out and gave the plaintiff until 19 October, 2006 to file a new Statement of Claim. By September 2007 the claim had been substantially altered with the result that only 14 defendants remain.