Georgia provides a home pet care service as well as being a financial planner. Malcolm is interested in obtaining home pet care as he is expected to be away from home for a week. After a brief phone call, Georgia attends Malcolm’s home to meet his pets. Malcolm begins to talk to Georgia about the rates for her service and specifically mentions that he requires home pet car for both his award winning rabbit and his tropical fish. He explains that he is soon to show his award winning rabbit at a show in Melbourne where, if he wins, he will receive $10,000. During the conversation Georgia states ‘I am a professional, an animal lover and that this should not be a problem’. She informs Malcolm that her rate for caring for both his rabbit and fish will be $100 per day for a total of $700 for the week she is to care for them. The next day, Georgia emails Malcolm a copy of a standard form contract that she uses with all of her home pet care clients. This standard form contract contains (inter alia) the following clause:
‘Georgia maintains the highest standards in animal care. However Georgia will not be liable for death or illness of tropical fish due to their specific vulnerabilities.’
Malcolm is very busy preparing for his trip away. Consequently, he does not read the contract but signs it and returns it to Georgia in person along with a cheque for $700. While he is away Georgia attends frequently to the pets but incorrectly feeds the fish the rabbit food and the rabbit the fish food. Upon returning home the following week, Malcolm finds that his tropical fish worth thousands of dollars have died. In addition, due to the rabbit food blocking the aquarium filter, extensive flooding has occurred damaging both furniture and the house Malcolm is renting. Malcolm also finds that the rabbit, has lost all its hair (due to the stress from eating fish food and is no longer able to be shown. Malcolm calls his bank to issue a stop payment on the $700 cheque he gave Georgia.
- Discuss the contractual issues that arise in this situation
- Advise Malcolm as to whether he can sue Georgia for breach of contract and, if so, what remedy or remedies should he seek? Does Georgia have any claims against Malcolm?