FEDERAL court judge, Berna Collier, and her husband, Brisbane lawyer Alan Collier, have been forced to repay the legal fees their neighbour accrued in a dispute with the couple.
Judge Michael Rackemann, of the Queensland Planning and Environment Court, ruled that the couple would be required to repay the legal fees from a previous case, to their neighbour, one of Queensland's wealthiest women, Maxine Horne, after he deemed it was “frivolous or vexatious”.
While the Integrated Planning Act 1997 states that each party in the court must bear the party’s own cost for the proceedings, it does allow for some exceptions to the rule, including if the court considers the proceedings or part of the proceedings to be frivolous or vexatious.
The case in question was based on the Colliers' objection to Horne’s plans to extend her home, to almost double the size of its original form, which would result in the Collier’s property losing some of its impressive view, sun on the backyard pool and possibly its value.
Horne spent $5 million on the purchase of the run down property ‘Berrimilla’ and an adjoining property. The Colliers, who live on the lower side of the Horne house, claimed the construction of the new home would have severe impacts on their and an adjoining neigbour's property.
The squabble has lasted at least three years, and when it started the male Collier noted that "it is unfortunate because it is nothing that we would have wished to occur. There is not quite the same friendliness that used to exist in the area", The Australian reported in 2006.
The original case resulted in amendments being made to the development plans, however, the Colliers were not satisfied with these and again undertook legal proceedings claiming that the new plans would affect the “amenity” of their property.
In commenting on the second appeal, Judge Rackemann said: “I am satisfied that this part of the proceeding was frivolous and vexatious and warrants the exercise of discretion in favour of the adverse costs order.”
Horne was represented in the appeals case by Deacons Lawyers, while the Colliers were represented by Connor O’Meara solicitors.