$2.3m legal claim against principal may be struck out
A Supreme Court judge has struck out Logan private school Kimberley College's statement of claim in its case against its ex-principal and four of his family members.
Justice Jean Dalton today ordered Kimberley College's $2.3 million claim against its founding principal Paul Thompson and four others be stayed for three months.
The college has to seek leave to file a new statement of claim, with material to support new pleadings, by November 20, or the whole case could be struck out.
The decision by Justice Dalton, including four costs orders against the college, was described by Anthony Morris QC as a "huge win" for Mr Thomson and family members.
Mr Morris said outside court the college might have to pay more than $100,000, which he said his clients would prefer to see spent on students' education.
Kimberley College sued Mr Thomson, his wife Jennifer Thomson, their daughter Amy Ferguson, her husband Kevin Ferguson and the Thomsons' daughter Deborah Horn.
All five worked for the college.
Justice Dalton was highly critical of the state of Kimberley College's pleadings in its latest statement of claim, saying they lacked material facts to support its case.
The judge said there was a general allegation that the defendants caused or permitted the college to pay them $2.3 million "for an improper purpose".
She said some paragraphs of the pleadings did not make any factual allegations and they were only "an idea", but not one with any legal content.
Mr Morris told the court the allegation that Mr Thomson, "a man with distinguished attainments in education", had ripped off the school to the tune of $2.36 million, was one of the most serious allegations that could be made in the court.
"What this signifies is that so far, the college has not been able to come up with a viable claim to run in the court," Mr Morris said outside court, after the strike out order.
He said the college's claim did not explain how the $2.3 million was allegedly arrived, who spent what on whom or where the money went.
"It's tantamount to alleging theft to say that they stole money from the school," Mr Morris said outside court.
He said if the college was trying to make that sort of allegation, it had to get it right and provide proper details.
Paul Thomson was Kimberley College's principal from the school's creation in 2000 until his employment was terminated in June, 2018.
Amy Ferguson was the chief financial officer until June, 2018, and Kevin Ferguson was a director and manager of the college.
Jennifer Thomson was the principal's personal assistant and Ms Horn was a deputy principal.
It has been alleged the defendants, in particular Mr Thomson and Ms Ferguson, for a long time were in control of the college and used college money to their own benefit.
The college also alleged the spouses of the defendants benefited from monies alleged to have been misappropriated. It was the second strike out application by the five defendants.
Justice Dalton said lawyers for Kimberley College has three months to rethink their approach to the litigation and come up with proper pleadings.
"It may well be that your clients have a good case," Justice Dalton told the college's barrister, Blair Hall.
The judge said someone with considerable expertise had to be engaged to replead the claim, which she said would be "a very considerable job".
Justice Dalton warned that if the college could not replead its case, there could still be a basis for striking out the claim on that basis alone.
Originally published as $2.3m claim against principal may be struck out