Brisbane Supreme District Court
Brisbane Supreme District Court Rae Wilson

Informal vineyard agreement turns sour in court

TWO couples have learnt the hard way not to mix business with family.

A married couple has been ordered to pay more than $300,000 to family members following a court battle over ownership of a farm north of Ipswich.

The dispute started in 2002, when Salvatore and Maria Condo tried to sell their property in Esk, north east of Toowoomba, in 2002.

However, after Mr Condo spoke with Tien Nguyen, a former Vietnamese national, the pair came to an agreement to own the property together.

The men were linked through family connections - Mr Nguyen's partner Tuoi Dang has a sister who is married to the Condos' son.

The Condos agreed to sell half of the property to Mr Nguyen and Ms Dang in exchange for $140,000.

In a judgment handed down in the Brisbane Supreme Court, Justice Debra Mullins said the arrangement was that Mr Nguyen would move to the farm, establish a vineyard and improve it.

"One of the reasons Mr Condo 'put' Mr Nguyen on the Esk property was that he was a hard worker," the judgment said.

Mr Condo claimed they had agreed to go halves in everything together.

However, Mr Nguyen argued they did not agree to give the Condos half of the proceeds from vegetable sales, which he grew on his own, separate to the vineyard.

While setting-up the vineyard, Mr Nguyen paid Mr Condo $40,000 to establish the grapevines.

He also paid Mr Condo $15,000 for a new tractor and another $23,000 to buy equipment for the grapevines.

Mr Nguyen and Ms Dang also spent more than $67,000 on farming chemicals and paid $25,550 towards the mortgage.

However, they never got their share of the property.

"The parties did not get to the next stage of their original arrangement of equally sharing income and expenses, because the defendants did not transfer a one-half interest in the property to the plaintiffs and the parties' relationship broke down," Justice Mullins said.

She said both Mr Nguyen and Mr Condo made a mistake in not properly formalising their agreement.

"There was good faith on the part of both parties at the outset of their dealings, but the plaintiffs were more successful with growing vegetables on the Esk property than the vineyard that had been the defendants' plan for the property.

"Apart from spending their funds on the Esk property, the plaintiffs were making a significant contribution by using their labour (without cost) in undertaking the hard work that was required to establish and maintain the vineyard (with little help from Mr Condo when he visited the property)."

Justice Mullins ordered the Condos to pay the the other couple $374,880, which included compensation and interest.

- APN NEWSDESK



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