Tait-Jamieson v Cardrona Ski Resort Limited involved an appeal by Mr Tait-Jamieson against a District Court judgment which held that he was liable pursuant to an unsigned guarantee in favour of Cardrona Ski Resort Limited (Cardrona). The case itself concerned a letter addressed to Cardrona from Mr Tait-Jamieson and two other parties, Mr Winsloe and Mr Smith. The letter provided that Mr Tait-Jamieson, Mr Winsloe and Mr Smith would undertake payment of certain amounts to Cardrona in the event that Central Lakes Ski Racing Incorporated (Central Lakes) was unable to meet its obligations to Cardrona to fund a winter sport training programme. The letter was prepared by Mr Smith and circulated immediately following a meeting he had with Mr Winsloe and Mr Tait- Jamieson where the parties agreed to provide the undertakings to Cardrona to ensure the training programme would continue (Mr Tait-Jamieson's children having relocated from Auckland to Wanaka to train full-time under the programme). Mr Tait-Jamieson did not sign the letter but nor did he communicate any concerns about its content to Mr Smith or Cardrona. The letter was signed by Mr Winsloe only then delivered to Cardrona.
Funding from Central Lakes for the training programme was not forthcoming and there followed a series of communications between Cardrona and Mr Tait-Jamieson during which Mr Tait-Jamieson confirmed his commitment to underwrite the obligations of Central Lakes, sought an extension of time to make payment and offered to pay interest in the meantime. When payment was not forthcoming in the following months, Cardrona issued proceedings against Mr Tait-Jamieson.
It was held that it would be unconscionable for Mr Tait-Jamieson to rely on the absence of his signature on the letter on the basis that:
- The letter was in writing and there was certainty to its terms
- This was not the case of a powerful creditor and an inexperienced person (Mr Tait-Jamieson himself a lawyer) being led into a one-sided and ill-considered obligation he did not fully understand and from which he did not gain any benefit
- The letter was not drawn up by Cardrona or even at the suggestion of Cardrona
- Mr Tait-Jamieson knew the letter was to be delivered to Cardrona to induce Cardrona not to terminate the funding for the programme
- Mr Tait-Jamieson personally and expressly affirmed his intention to be bound both orally and also, importantly, in writing via email.
The Court noted that the case involved someone attempting to evade his liability on what a layperson would not unreasonably see as technical loophole and accordingly Mr Tait-Jamieson's appeal was dismissed.
View case here.