Although a claim listed in an application may be unclear, other premises mentioned in the same application may throw light on what is being asked for. This was decided by the Small Claims Tribunal in Lorenz Ltd v Maria Addolorata Di Pasquale and Giovanni on 18 December 2017.
In their application the plaintiff company explained that they had sold merchandise to a restaurant run by the defendants, but were never paid. The plaintiffs asked the Court to order the two defendants to pay €617.46.
The defendants replied in a statement of defence, where they pointed out that there was an agreement between the parties which automatically renewed itself. Furthermore, the issue also includes the lease of a shop sign and a coffee machine, which machine was given, without the defendants asking for it. They also claimed that the only pending bill was of €58.11
The Tribunal, presided by Dr Claudio Zammit looked at the evidence brought before it and saw that the agreement bound the defendants to purchase coffee exclusively from the plaintiff and the plaintiff allowed the use of a coffee machine, grinder and shop sign. The background of the case is when the director of the plaintiff company, Raffaele Ugliano, heard that the restaurant was to close and went to remove the machine and request payment of the pending invoices. The atmosphere of the meeting required the police to be called. The defendants wanted to cut all ties with the plaintiff. The defendants claimed that the only pending bill was of €58.11 and they wanted the return of the unused coffee and shop sign. Ugliano refused to accept.
The Tribunal pointed out that the shop sign should have been deposited in court for the defendants to no longer be responsible for it. The defendants argued that the case concerned payment of merchandise and the sign was not part of the case. However, from the application and the documents attached to it the plaintiff company was asking for payment of the sign. From case law the premises in application may indicate the requests made. In Nicholas Cini noe v Mario Agius decided by the Court of the Appeal on 4 May 1990 held that the premises of an application may throw light of the requests if they are not clear. The Tribunal held that case law leans towards the Courts trying to save an action and therefore, the Tribunal should do the same.
The Tribunal pointed out that the defendants failed to convince it by stating that they should not pay for the coffee. They did not have an option to return the coffee, since there was no defect. Neither was there evidence that payment should not be paid upon delivery.
With regard to a small coffee machine which was given to the defendants, the Tribunal said it was clearly a gift and should not be included in the claim.
The Tribunal then ruled that the defendants have to pay €497.46 to the plaintiff company.
Dr Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
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