Lawyer's appeal fails in dispute over jet parking fees

HAMISH MCNICOL
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2014

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A Wellington lawyer's appeal which "lacked merit" and contributed unnecessarily to the time and expense of a dispute over parking his US$3 million private jet has been dismissed.

Last year Mike Garnham, who in 2012 bought Terry Serepisos' ASB Bank Tower for $22 million, copped a $7500 parking ticket after he lost a case over disputed hangar fees.

Garnham, a Wellington property investor and conveyancing solicitor, owned two Cessna Citation Mustang light jets through his company Acernus Aero.

In April last year he was ordered by the High Court in Wellington to pay $7510.95 in unpaid rent, landing charges and airways fees to Vincent Aviation, an air charter and air transport company. But last month Acernus Aero appealed the order to pay costs of $42,000 to Vincent Aviation, after the parties failed to agree on the amount.

In the High Court judgment Justice Forrest Miller said he believed the real motive of Acernus' case was a desire to gain access to the hangar through its claim for relief against forfeiture.

"That claim was always both untenable and certain to meet resolute opposition," he said.

In the appeal, however, Acernus said Justice Miller was wrong to have found Vincent Aviation was the successful party.

Both parties had failed and therefore should be responsible for costs, Acernus had said.

But Justices France, Harrison and White disagreed, saying "Acernus initiated and pursued this proceeding with intensity and expedition".

Vincent Aviation had only filed counter-claims because of Acernus' "determination to proceed".

"The position for costs purposes was put beyond doubt by Vincent's modest success on its counter-claim."

Acernus also appealed Justice Miller's calculations for costs, which attributed 30 per cent to Vincent Aviation's counter-claim.

The appeal was dismissed, and an order to pay costs for a standard appeal, plus an extra 50 per cent, was made.

Increased costs were awarded because the Court of Appeal found Acernus had "contributed unnecessarily to the time and expense of this appeal by pursuing arguments that on appeal lacked merit".

The dispute originally arose because Garnham's jets were alternatively housed at Vincent Aviation's Wellington hangar, in an agreement originally entered into for $1666.67 a month, excluding GST, for a single jet.

Garnham and fellow Acernus principal, Wellington lawyer Andrew Fawcett, used the jet privately but also wanted to charter flights with it.

Justice Miller had said he was not satisfied Acernus' continued use of Vincent's services after April 8, 2011 meant they had agreed to the new rates.

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He ruled Vincent was entitled to six weeks of unpaid rent at $2900. A further $4600 in payments was won by Vincent in unpaid landing charges and Airways fees.

- Stuff

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