Michael and Nicole Saunders leaving Mackay courthouse after day one of a magistrates court hearing involving Whitsunday Anglican School
Michael and Nicole Saunders leaving Mackay courthouse after day one of a magistrates court hearing involving Whitsunday Anglican School

Couple could face hefty legal bill over school fee saga

A Mackay couple entangled in a lawsuit with Whitsunday Anglican School will now have to foot its legal bill - but just how much will they have to pay is the latest twist in the courtroom saga.

The prestigious private school sued parents Michael and Nicole Saunders over almost $40,000 in outstanding fees from between 2014 and 2018.

While Mr and Mrs Saunders unsuccessfully lodged a counterclaim for loss of business, stress and defamation after they were briefly listed with a credit recovery service.

 

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Last week Magistrate Damien Dwyer quashed the countersuit because of a lack of evidence after the couple admitted they owed, and said they were prepared to pay, the fees totalling $39,705.27.

Mackay Magistrates Court on Tuesday heard the Saunders had paid the money, but would now argue how much of the school's legal fees they were liable for.

Barrister Stephen Byrne, for Whitsunday Anglican School, said the argument would centre around standard costs versus indemnity costs.

 

Mr Saunders said he had a meeting with a Brisbane law firm about indemnity costs.

Indemnity costs are usually set at a higher range than standard costs, which are an amount determined as what was necessary or proper to attain justice or enforce or defend rights.

If costs are ordered on a standard basis then the party being awarded will generally only recover about 60 to 75 per cent of their legal bill and there is a specific scale of costs under the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999.

 

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Indemnity costs are calculated by looking at all costs reasonably incurred. The unsuccessful party may need to pay up to 90 to 95 per cent of any fees and costs incurred by the successful party.

"I think without making any decision, without saying anything, the way this matter was conducted and the admissions that you made in your address at the end, indemnity costs I would have thought would be well and truly within range," Mr Dwyer said.

The case has been listed for next week.

 

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