Originally published March 23, 2020
Darwin hospitality and construction giant Halikos Group has lost its appeal in the NT Supreme Court over a protracted legal battle with international gas company Inpex, the NT Independent can reveal.
Halikos sued Inpex in 2017, seeking damages of close to $200 million over claims it walked away from an accommodation agreement.
But Justice Judith Kelly ruled against Halikos in August 2018, rejecting the company’s version of events provided by general manager Shane Dignan and hospitality manager Geoff Weeks.
She also rejected evidence provided by former chief minister Adam Giles and current CLP president Ron Kelly on behalf of Halikos Group.
That decision was upheld last Friday in the NT Court of Appeal by Judges Southwood, Hiley and Riley, with a finding that Halikos’ arguments “[do] not make sense” and were “fanciful”.
It was not immediately clear what the appeal decision means for Halikos Group, who is now expected to pay millions in Inpex’s legal costs as well as suffer its own claims of lost income, as the company also faces uncertainty following sweeping restrictions to the hospitality industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Much of the oral evidence was conflicting and her Honour carefully assessed the evidence of each of the witnesses in determining what she accepted and what she did not.Judges Southwood, Hiley and Riley, Court of Appeal
The company currently employs more than 500 people in the Northern Territory.
They have been contacted for comment.
Halikos had claimed it had an agreement with Inpex to provide accommodation for between 150 and 225 apartment units in 2014 and borrowed millions of dollars to construct the H 105 hotel in Darwin to meet that need.
But the court ruled in favour of Inpex in August 2018, rejecting Halikos’ evidence, and ultimately releasing the reasons for the decision in February 2019.
The appeal relied on claims that Justice Kelly had taken too long between the conclusion of hearing evidence and giving her reasons for judgment.
Halikos also claimed Justice Kelly had not properly considered all of the evidence in her reasons and that she did not give enough regard to the company’s witnesses.
However, the appeal judges rejected all of those claims and found the delay did not affect the decision and was an insufficient ground for appeal.
“We do not accept that there was any adverse impact upon the reasons resulting from the delay or any undue pressure upon her Honour to deliver judgment,” the decision read. “Much of the oral evidence was conflicting and her Honour carefully assessed the evidence of each of the witnesses in determining what she accepted and what she did not.
“It is not sufficient for Halikos to point to factual findings which are merely inconsistent with some of the evidence.”
The decision also found that Mr Dignan and Mr Weeks’ assertions there was an agreement in place “does not make sense”.
“The suggestion that the parties concluded a binding agreement on 13 February 2014, but continued to negotiate a second broader accommodation services provider agreement without obtaining any further authorisation does not make sense,” the decision stated.
“Further, the suggestions that Inpex’s approvals process could be avoided and a variation contract of this magnitude be concluded in about four weeks is fanciful.”
The case was seen as a battle of professional reputations. It’s expected Inpex will now seek its costs related to the matter which will be determined at a later date.
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