Family fights to keep home after coffee deal turns bitter
COFFEE distributors who bought their business from a Coast-grown empire stand to lose their family home in a legal battle over a debt owed to entrepreneur Shane Hepburn.
Diddillibah couple Katherine and Ben Saultry said in Maroochydore District Court documents Good Bean Coffee Distributors and Good Bean owner Mr Hepburn misrepresented the profitability of the business when they bought it in early 2016.
The claim is denied by Mr Hepburn and his company as he tries to take possession of the Saultry's home.
Mr Hepburn's Good Bean business has seven coffee shops on the Coast, with another slated to open in Brisbane.
It has another four in Melbourne and one in Sydney.
A judgment delivered this month showed the Saultrys had put their home up as security in a finance arrangement with Good Bean Coffee Distributors.
Judge Glen Cash said the Saultrys did not have the $425,000 purchase price when they bought the business so instead they accepted finance.
"Repayments by the plaintiffs (Saultrys) under the loan agreement fell into arrears," Judge Cash said.
He said Good Bean Coffee Distributors and Mr Hepburn sent a letter to the Saultrys in July last year seeking payment.
Then in September and October, Mr Hepburn and Good Bean Coffee Distributors gave notice they intended to exercise what they asserted was the power of sale accruing under the loan agreement and deed.
The Saultrys in December sought relief, including ending and varying the agreements, as a consequence of what they asserted were breaches of Australian Consumer Law.
"The plaintiffs (Saultrys) claim that they entered into these arrangements, including the deed, because the defendants (Good Bean Coffee Distributors and Mr Hepburn) misrepresented the profitability of the business," Judge Cash said.
The claim was denied by Good Bean Coffee Distributors and Mr Hepburn and a counterclaim was lodged.
Good Bean Coffee Distributors sought summary judgment against the Saultrys with orders including the right to possess and sell the Saultry's family home.
Judge Cash, however, was not satisfied the Saultrys had no real prospect of defending the counterclaim.
He said determination of the Saultry's claim and Good Bean Coffee Distributors' counterclaim would involve consideration of the power of the court to act under Australian Consumer Law.
"It is at least arguable that the deed is a 'collateral arrangement' as that term is used in the Australian Consumer Law," Judge Cash said.
"I do not have the necessary high degree of certainty as to the ultimate outcome of this consideration for there to be summary judgment."
After having his summary judgment motion dismissed, Mr Hepburn said the Saultrys were refusing to pay what had been agreed in the sale three years ago.
"We attempted to get the matter settled via a summary judgment so nobody had to go through a long court hearing but the judge decided a trial would be the fairest way to settle the matter," Mr Hepburn said.
"The next step is a full court trial which we will start as soon as possible."
Mrs Saultry said she was happy with the most recent court outcome but, noting the case was ongoing, declined to comment further.