Further to my post on Sunday, the High Court has earlier this morning handed down two important judgments – one in insolvency law (Universal Distributing principle) and one in restitution (change of position defence): Stewart v Atco Controls Pty Ltd (in liquidation)  HCA 15 and Australian Financial Services and Leasing Pty Ltd v Hills Industries Limited  HCA 14.
First, the High Court unanimously allowed the appeal of the liquidator of Newtronics Pty Ltd (in liquidation) from the Victorian Court of Appeal’s decision in Atco Controls Pty Ltd (in liquidation) v Stewart  VSCA 132. The High Court held that the liquidator was entitled to an equitable lien over a fund constituted by a settlement sum with respect to costs and expenses incurred in getting in the fund, being his costs and expenses in litigation against the respondent, a secured creditor, and receivers appointed by the respondent.
The bench of Crennan, Kiefel, Bell, Gageler and Keane JJ held that: “there is no basis for excepting this case from the application of the principle in Universal Distributing (at ). You can read the judgment in full here, the High Court’s judgment summary here, and my analysis of the Victorian Court of Appeal decision from which this appeal was brought here.
Secondly, the High Court unanimously dismissed the appeal of Australian Financial Services and Leasing Pty Ltd from the decision of the NSW Court of Appeal in Hills Industries Ltd v Australian Financial Services and Leasing Pty Ltd  NSWCA 380; (2012) 295 ALR 147, holding that the first and second respondents would not be required to repay monies that had been mistakenly transferred to them by the appellant as a result of a fraud committed by a third party, because each respondent had established a defence that they had changed their position on the faith of the receipt of the payments.
While the decision was unanimous, three judgments were written. The joint judgment was that of their Honours Hayne, Crennan, Kiefel, Bell and Keane JJ. Their Honours French CJ and Gageler J each wrote a separate judgment. You can read the judgment in full here, the High Court’s judgment summary here, and my analysis of the NSW Court of Appeal judgment from which this appeal was brought here (the second case discussed there).
More to follow – I will endeavour to return to analyse the High Court judgments in each case as soon as time allows.
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