The argument that a contract could not exist beyond its expiry date if there were no provision for remuneration was successful for Harmers Workplace Lawyers when the firm acted for Jessica Rowe on her contractual dispute with Channel 10.
Blake Dawson Waldron partner Helen McKenzie represented the television network.
Channel 10 attempted to hold Rowe to a clause in her contract that required her to give six months notice of her resignation, and prevented her from working for another network during that time. Rowe had informed the network she would cease working for it when her two-year contract expired on 31 December 2005 on the 18th of that month.
Joydeep Hor, partner and team leader at Harmers, said the case was a technical contract dispute concerning whether Rowe was correct in her assertion that her contract finished on 31 December, or whether the six month clause overrode that.
Channel 10 originally sought a court injunction to prevent Rowe from commencing work at Channel 9, but a decision in Rowe’s favour was handed down on 30 December. That afternoon, the network sought an injunction from Justice Carolyn Simpson against her own decision pending an appeal. This also was unsuccessful.
An injunction against that decision was also sought from Justice Kim Santow on 3 January with the decision, again in Rowe’s favour, handed down on 4 January. The appeal was heard on 10 January, with a unanimous decision in Rowe’s favour and Channel 10 ordered to pay costs.
“The key argument that won the case and consistently won at each stage, was that the contract couldn’t extend beyond two years because there was no provision for remuneration after that period,” Hor said.
“Effectively, there were four sets of proceedings in the three weeks straddling Christmas and New Year.”
Adding to the difficulties, the courts were also supposed to be closed over that period. “To their credit they made a lot of sacrifices and accommodations to allow the case to be heard as quickly as it was, including judges coming back from holidays,” Hor said.