JDM v Hodges [2019] QSC 65

BACKGROUND

The applicant who was an adult at the time of the hearing participated in a car accident that caused death of her grandmother, physical injury to her mother and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder to herself. As the result of her psychiatric assessment she was held to be under an impaired capacity to manage the balance of settlement monies which she got out of the settlement of a personal injury matter. Therefore, an applicant applied to the Supreme Court for orders for the appointment of an administrator under ss 12 and 245 of the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (the Act).

RELEASE DOCUMENT

The terms of the settlement were recited in a poorly drafted release document which did not record any agreement for the payment of administration and management fees. The second respondent accepted that it was implicit in the release that, in addition to paying the $600,000 settlement amount as primary damages, it agreed to pay ‘reasonable administration and management fees to be agreed or assessed’. However, the dispute arose as to whether the agreement had been reached or it remained for the court to decide on the amount of these ‘reasonable administration and management fees’.

ISSUES

Whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to appoint an administrator for financial matter.

DETERMINATION

Section 12 of the Act states that the tribunal may appoint an administrator for a financial matter if the tribunal is satisfied that certain criteria are met. The relevant tribunal is the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).  Section 245 of the Act states that the Supreme Court may exercise the tribunal’s power to appoint an administrator for a financial matter if:

  • in a civil proceeding
  • the court
  • sanctions a settlement, or
  • orders an amount to be paid by another person to an adult

Accordingly, for section 245 to apply, the application would need to be a civil proceeding in which the Court ‘orders an amount to be paid by another person to an adult’. The subject proceeding was a civil proceeding; however, the Court was not tasked to sanction a settlement or to order amounts to be paid by the respondent to the applicant. Therefore, section 245 did not apply to allow the Court to exercise the tribunal’s powers in this case.

Alternatively, it was submitted that the present application should be decided in a parens patriae jurisdiction, where the Court can exercise the delegated power of the Crown in discharge of the Crown’s direct responsibility to look after those who cannot look after themselves. The Court held that the dispute as to whether there has been agreement as to payment and assessment of the quantum of reasonable administration or management fees is a part of the broader legal dispute in which the applicant has instructed lawyers without relevant incapacity. Therefore, there was no need for the Court to intervene within its parens patriae jurisdiction and resolve this dispute on behalf of the applicant as she did not lack capacity to do so on her own. 

DECISION

The Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to appoint an administrator under the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 in circumstances where there was no application to sanction a settlement in the proceeding before the Court, and no separate power to make a payment order.

QCAT has a number of unlimited jurisdictions, some equivalent to the Supreme Court, and the Guardianship and Administration list is one of them.  The tribunal remains one of the most important legal institutions in the State of Queensland.