by Shawn Cumberbatch
The developers of the stalled Four Seasons Project will face off in court against two of their former lawyers. In a battle that is now set to head to trial after two years of preliminaries, attorneys-at-law John Damian Edghill and Naeem Ahmed Ebrahim Patel of Old College Chambers are suing Paradise Beach Limited and Paradise 88 Limited, joint developers of the hotel and residential villas for more than $621,000.
And in a recent decision by the Barbados Court of Appeal, Paradise has failed to get the related statement of claim dismissed, deeming it inappropriate “to strike out a claim where the central issues are in dispute”.
Paradise’s failed appeal was against the decision made by Master of the High Court Keith Roberts not to throw out the claim before it went to trial.
Edghill and Patel were previously hired by Paradise to provide “legal services”, but the court said “it seems that there was a falling out between the parties and the appellants terminated the respondents’ services”.
In May 2010, counsel for the two lawyers, Randall Belgrave, Q.C. wrote Paradise attorneys-at-law Clarke Gittens & Farmer, referring to invoices sent to Paradise for $588,000 plus $52,000 in value added tax.
There was a response from Paradise Beach Limited’s Executive Chairman, Professor Avinash Persaud the following month, in which he acknowledged “the existence” of the $621,000 in invoices and said his company intended to settle in two tranches of $200,000 and $421,000 out of a loan from ANSA Merchant Bank.
But Belgrave replied to Persaud a month later and rejected the proposed terms of the settlement, indicating that his clients had been assured that all funds due to them would have been paid in full out of the first tranche of the US$60 million from ANSA.
The two former Paradise lawyers subsequent filed a statement of claim over the $621,000, and the overall matter remains unresolved.
Elliott Mottley, Q.C., who is representing Paradise, argued that Edghill and Patel “having not had their costs taxed and served on the appellants pursuant to Section 34(1) of the Legal Profession Act are barred from bringing a claim under Section 34(2) thereof”.
He also argued that there was “no agreement between the parties as to the amount and manner of payment as required by Section 36 of the LPA because the respondents’ letter written by Mr. Belgrave, Q.C., and dated 5 July 2010 whilst agreeing the amount, rejected the manner of payment”.
But Belgrave countered that “Mr. Persaud’s letter constitutes an agreement as regards the amount and is capable of and does amount to a promissory note and the respondents’ claim is “outside the whole regime of 34 to 36.
But in a written judgment issued last week, the three member panel of Justices of Appeal Sherman Moore, Sandra Mason and Andrew Burgess, ruled there were too many disputed areas for the $621,000 to be dismissed before it reached trial and dismissed the Paradise appeal.
“Comparison of the parties’ pleadings, affidavits and correspondence reveals disputes on facts and law. On the one hand Mr. Mottley, Q.C. contended that (a) there was no agreement between the parties; (b) Mr Persaud’s letter acknowledged only the respondents’ invoices and not the amount of the invoices and (c) Mr. Belgrave, Q.C.’s letter rejected the manner of payment set out in Mr. Persaud’s letter. On the other hand Mr. Belgrave contended that (a) there was an agreement; (b) the respondents were not relying on section 34 or 36 of the LPA and (c) Mr. Persaud’s letter constituted a promissory note,” they stated.
“It was a case management hearing before Master Roberts and in our opinion those disputed issues of fact and law were eminently suitable for resolution at a full blown trial before a judge.
“It is our view that the Master would have acted quite unjustly had he summarily struck out the claim in circumstances in which on the documents there were clearly issues to be tried. firstname.lastname@example.org