30/10/2018 - 15:55

Court rules on Hancock costs

30/10/2018 - 15:55

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A Supreme Court ruling has shed light on the multi-million dollar legal bills incurred by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting and Wright Prospecting in their long-running battle over ownership of the Rhodes Ridge iron ore deposit in the Pilbara.

A Supreme Court ruling has shed light on the multi-million dollar legal bills incurred by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting and Wright Prospecting in their long-running battle over ownership of the Rhodes Ridge iron ore deposit in the Pilbara.

This week’s Court of Appeal ruling was focused on how much Hancock would have to pay in costs.

It followed another ruling last week that found Hancock was liable for costs after losing the substantive case.

Wright argued that the maximum amount allowable under the relevant scale item was inadequate; it also claimed the complexity and importance of the matter justified a special cost ruling.

Clayton Utz partner Gareth Jenkins, who acted for Wright, argued that the amount at stake supported his submissions on the importance of the matter.

He deposed that Hancock was claiming costs of $5.4 million in respect of just one aspect of the case – an earlier appeal by Wright over the 'unconscionability’ of Hancock’s claim.

Another affidavit deposed that the amount Wright would be entitled to recover would vary by $3 million depending on the interpretation adopted by the courts.

These figures, quoted in this week’s judgement, support media reports suggesting the total legal bill would be well in excess of $10 million.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeal said the amount of money at stake was clearly not insignificant. 

“However, the amount is to be considered in the context of two large commercial parties engaged in an industry which regularly requires the expenditure of very large amounts of money,” the ruling stated.

“The evidence does not indicate that the amount at issue in the appeal had any particular significance for the parties.”

The Court of Appeal also rejected Wright’s claim the matter was unusually complex or important.

“The issues raised in the appeal had no significance to other prospective parties, or to the public or community generally,” the appeal judges ruled.

This week’s ruling should bring an end to the 17-year dispute over ownership of Rhodes Ridge, which was discovered by Lang Hancock and Peter Wright.

Rhodes Ridge contains an estimated 5.3 billion tonnes of high-grade iron ore.

It is located near the Hope Downs iron ore mines, which have been jointly developed by Hancock Prospecting and Rio Tinto.

Hancock and Wright are engaged in separate legal battles over the ownership of the Hope Downs deposits and royalties payable.

While Wright was not successful in its appeal over costs, South Korean contractor Samsung was successful in a similar appeal held in August.

In the Samsung case, Justice Rene Le Miere accepted that its dispute with Spanish contractor Duro Felguera was unusually difficult, complex and important.

On this basis, he made a special costs order that bumped up the amount payable by Duro.

His ruling also specified the total fees and billing rates charged by Samsung’s lawyers, from Herbert Smith Freehills.

Samsung was billed $166,370 in legal fees, as follows:

•             Senior counsel - 28.1 hours at $1,200 ph

•             Counsel - 30.75 hours at $370 ph

•             Solicitors - 265 hours at $480 ph

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