The facts of this case will not strain the imagination of anyone with experience of domestic building work. Angela and Peter Mann engaged Paterson Constructions to build two townhouses in Blackburn, in suburban Melbourne. The parties fell into dispute when the builder claimed nearly $50,000 for additional work. The Manns claimed the builder refused to return to site until the bill for the additional work was paid, and that the work was defective. They argued that this amounted to a repudiation of their contract, and purported to accept the builder’s repudiation. The builder responded that the Manns did not have a lawful right to terminate and that, as a result, their actions amounted to a repudiation which the builder accepted. On any analysis, the contract was terminated. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found that the Manns had repudiated the contract. The Manns appealed to the Supreme Court of Victoria, then to the Court of Appeal, and finally to the High Court.
The critical issue: can the builder elect between contract damages or a quantum merit? Continue reading