Willmott Growers Group Inc v Willmott Forests Ltd

The High Court has dismissed an appeal against the decision of the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal in Willmott Forests Ltd v Willmott Growers Group Inc. Willmott Forests Ltd is in liquidation, and receivers and managers have been appointed. In that case, the VCA held that a liquidator’s disclaimer of leases extinguished the leasehold interest held by the lessee. The central question before the High Court was the proper construction of the s 568(1A) of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), which provides that a ‘liquidator cannot dislaim a contract (other than an unprofitable contract or a lease of land) except with the leave of the Court’, specifically, whether ‘a lease of land’ includes any lease to which the company is a party, or only leases in which the company is the tenant. The majority (French CJ, Hayne and Kiefel JJ) held that a lease granted by the company to a tenant is a contract, and the liquidators are therefore empowered to disclaim the leases. Gageler J in a separate judgment also dismissed the appeal. Keane J dissented.

High Court Judgment [2013] HCA 51 4 December 2013
Result Appeal dismissed
High Court Documents Willmott Growers
Full Court Hearing [2013] HCATrans 171  9 August 2013
Special Leave Hearing [2013] HCATrans 106  10 May 2013
Appeal from VCA [2012] VSCA 202 29 August 2012
VSC Judgment [2012] VSC 29 9 February 2012