A director from a former recycling company must pay nearly $1.5 million in damages after his business moved out of a commercial site it had leased in Canberra and left behind hundreds of tonnes of glass waste.
William Le Messurier had been one of the directors for the MRI Group in the ACT, which recycled electronic waste and leased three commercial units on Townsend Street in Fyshwick from Sporco Investments.
Due to various defaults by the company, Sporco terminated the leases.
“The company failed to pay rent, and repair damage to the units and the surrounding facilities,” the ACT Magistrates Court’s Magistrate Glenn Theakston said.
“It also left an enormous amount of hazardous waste in and around the units.”
MRI (ACT) ultimately became insolvent and has been de-registered.
Part of its work had been to recycle older-style glass cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and computer monitors. It received devices, took them apart and shipped components to various sites, but also stockpiled waste on the premises.
Magistrate Theakston said the leases were terminated by 2021, then when MRI (ACT) vacated the property it left behind waste inside and outside the units. He put the estimate of this CRT glass at about 762 tonnes.
Sporco sued Mr Le Messurier, claiming damages for breaches under the lease agreements or for the ongoing trespass by failing to remove the glass waste in a reasonable time.
Mr Le Messurier did not attend the court proceedings, which Magistrate Theakston said created a challenge and he remarked while an employee had given some insight of what happened for the court, “much remains unclear”.
“For example, what plans did the company, other entities within the related group and the defendant and the other directors have for the growing stockpile of CRT glass?” he said.
The magistrate found Mr Le Messurier directed or procured the actions of the company that resulted in the stockpile of glass remaining in and around the units.
“The defendant’s role across the group and beyond the company meant that he stood apart from the company and directed or procured the stockpile as a separate entity,” Magistrate Theakston said.
In his published decision from last week, he said he found Sporco had suffered losses due either to MRI (ACT) breaching the lease agreement for two of the units or the trespass associated with the third unit and that Mr Le Messurier was liable.
The total damages exceeded $1.46 million and included work needed to repair the units as well as remove the waste.