Man claims $25k for consoling dying brother


STEPHEN Laffey believed in a handshake and a man's word being his bond.

So, when his dying brother, Michael Laffey, asked him to put his own work on hold to help look after his business affairs, he believed his promise that he would be paid for it.

But since his brother's death from cancer in 2017, Stephen Laffey has had to take the difficult step of making a minor civil debt claim in a tribunal, after being denied payment of $23,716.

Michael Laffey, who ran successful L & V Pools on the Gold Coast, and Stephen had both been in the pool business for 35 years and had worked on drilling rigs for 15 years.

Stephen Laffey told Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal when Michael, who had cancer, needed his help, he did not think twice about being there for his brother.

Michael, a highly awarded and very successful pool and spa builder, who was well known for big projects on the Gold Coast such as the pool areas at Palazzo Versace and Q1, was hospitalised for the last three months of his life in 2017.

Mr Laffey told the tribunal Michael asked him to stay with him in the hospital for the last five weeks of his life, as he did not want to die alone.

Michael Laffey, who ran a successful Gold Coast business, L &V Pools. He died of cancer in 2017
Michael Laffey, who ran a successful Gold Coast business, L &V Pools. He died of cancer in 2017

"We're brothers. A handshake, a man's word's his bond,'' he told the tribunal.

"We didn't have to have an agreement every time we done something, you know.

"So, while he was sick, he asked me to come and help him. I've done everything he's asked for...Simple as that.''

Stephen Laffey ran outside business errands for hospitalised Michael and was at his brother's bedside when he had leukaemia treatments.

He also helped sell 110 greyhounds for his brother for $117,000, which went into the estate. Sadly, Michael did not leave anything in his will to his brother.

Mr Laffey waited until 10 months after Michael's death before presenting an invoice for $23,716 to the company that had bought his brother's business before his death.

Mr Laffey claimed it was what his brother had orally agreed to pay him - at $40 an hour - for 539 hours of hospital care.

But L & V Project Pools denied the existence of the alleged agreement and refused to pay.

Ross Salter, a close friend and employee of Michael, told the tribunal Mr Laffey insisted he and Stephen were to be paid for helping him while he was in hospital.

"I cannot say enough about Stephen's hard work and loyalty to his brother. Michael would not have been able to run things without Stephen,'' Mr Salter said.

A document recording payments to Mr Salter, for "looking after Michael'' and for spending nights at the hospital, corroborated his evidence that Stephen was also to be paid.

Tribunal adjudicator Alan Walsh said the pool company and its lawyers unlawfully failed to produce the document at the tribunal, disadvantaging Stephen Laffey.

Mr Walsh found that Michael Laffey made an agreement that Stephen's company would be paid $40 an hour, for the care and support he was to give him in hospital.

He said that included Stephen being there day and night, attending to his brother's directions, financial affairs and other needs and supporting and consoling him in his final days.

On July 31, L & V Project Pools was ordered to pay Mr Laffey's company $25,338, including interest of $1284, and a tribunal filing fee.