11 Jun 2015
Property owners are not restricted by earlier statutory valuations determined by consent
by Brian Noble, Tim Jones, James Byrnes
Generally, earlier decisions do not restrict the evidence or matters that owners may put forward in subsequent valuation proceedings.
The decision in GPT RE Limited v Valuer-General  QLC 14 relates to land valuations and confirmed that property owners are not restricted in their statutory valuation appeals from raising or adducing evidence about matters that occurred prior to the time of an earlier statutory valuation determined by a Court via the consent of the parties. This means that the conduct of a valuation appeal will not be restricted as a result of a valuation determined by consent for a previous valuation.
The Valuer-General's application to restrict evidence and matters that could be raised
GPT RE Limited had appealed against the valuation of 123 Eagle Street, Brisbane as at 1 October 2012 under the Land Valuation Act 2010 (Qld) (2012 Appeal). During the course of the 2012 Appeal, the Valuer-General made an interlocutory application seeking to limit the evidence and matters that GPT could raise in the 2012 Appeal because of the determination by consent of GPT's appeal against the valuation of the Property as at 1 October 2010 (the 2010 Appeal). In the 2010 Appeal, the statutory valuation of the Property had been determined by consent as being $87 million as at 1 October 2010.
The Valuer-General's application depended on the principle of issue estoppel. In general terms, where the principle of issue estoppel applies, it prevents a party from raising again the same issue that has previously been determined in earlier litigation between the same parties. The orders sought were that the only evidence admissible in the 2012 Appeal was evidence of:
- comparable sales to the property which were not identified in the grounds of appeal of the 2010 Appeal and where the date of sale was after 1 October 2010; and
- other facts relevant to the valuation of the property which first occurred or existed after 1 October 2010.
The Valuer-General also sought an order that GPT was estopped from putting into contest in the 2012 Appeal any matter of fact (including a fact asserted on the basis of expert opinion) other than a matter put into contest by the evidence referred to above.
Decision: issue estoppel did not apply and GPT was not restricted in the evidence and matters it could raise
Dismissing the majority of the Valuer-General's application, Member Smith ordered that GPT was only bound by the fact that the statutory valuation of the Property as at 1 October 2010 was $87 million as determined by the Land Court (by the consent of the parties). Accordingly, GPT was not otherwise restricted in the evidence it could lead or the matters it could raise by reason of the past consent determination.
In his reasoning, Member Smith stated that the determination in the 2010 Appeal was "a site valuation as at a specific date for a specific parcel of land in accordance with the Land Valuation Act. Nothing more, nothing less." The statutory valuation at an earlier point in time does not dictate the subsequent valuation and each valuation will involve an exercise taking into account the valuation test. In addition, it is for the Land Court in a particular matter to determine the weight of any previous decision of the Land Court or the Land Appeal Court, and this varies from case to case.
Member Smith concluded that the determination of the 2010 Appeal by consent caused problems in identifying the issues necessarily determined in that appeal (the issues must be properly identified in order to make a finding of issue estoppel). Given the 2010 Appeal was determined by consent, it was not the case that the parties had accepted contentions raised in the 2010 Appeal in its determination and the Land Court had no way of knowing what essential issues were determined. Indeed, the consent determination may have been entered into for different reasons by the parties.
Accordingly, Member Smith decided that the Valuer-General failed to identify with any precision the issues which were decided in the 2010 Appeal which caused an issue estoppel to arise with respect to the 2012 Appeal, apart from the determination of the value as at 1 October 2010.
Analysis: clarity and comfort for property owners about issue estoppel
This decision provides some clarity and comfort for property owners as to the operation of issue estoppel in connection with previous land valuation appeals and generally supports the proposition that earlier decisions do not restrict the evidence or matters that may be put forward by owners in subsequent valuation proceedings.
This is particularly important where a property owner is trying to establish that the property valuation has declined in circumstances where an earlier higher value has been accepted by the Court. It is also relevant to new incoming owners and the potential existence of two valuations.
However, further clarity on this topic would be beneficial given the particular facts of this case and the importance of the consensual nature of the determination of the 2010 Appeal in Member Smith's reasoning.