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Land battle


by Shawn Cumberbatch

A big legal battle over the sale of a St. Peter sugar plantation, involving one of the island’s main real estate developers and a leading farmer, appears headed for the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Last month Barbados’ Court of Appeal overturned a June 2005 High Court decision, which had mandated owner of the The Farm Plantation, Stephen Ward, to sell the property to Timothy Walsh, operator of Nature’s Produce Inc. for $1.5 million.

Instead, Barbados TODAY learnt, the local appellate panel ordered, among other things, that Ward “be at liberty to convey” the same 135 acre property to building magnate Bjorn Bjerkhamn for $1.35 million.

This was after both sides had argued that based on the merits of their individual agreements with the land owner there were entitled to purchase the property first.

But the Walsh/Nature’s Produce legal team headed by Barry Gale, Q.C. is having none of it and tomorrow will file an application for leave to appeal the recent decision to the CCJ.

The application will be accompanied by a supporting affidavit signed by Gale’s associate attorney-at-law Leodean Worrell.

This was confirmed today by Gale, who told Barbados TODAY: “My client is wholly dissatisfied with the decision of the Court of Appeal and he has instructed me to seek recourse with the CCJ.

“We are of the view that the Court of Appeal was wrong and made several errors of laws and fact so that is the basis of our appeal.”

After reviewing evidence, hearing the arguments of counsel and deliberating on the appeal brought by Ward, and cross appeals filed by both Walsh and Bjerkhamn, the three-member Court of Appeal panel of justices Sherman Moore, Sandra Mason and Andrew Burgess made a number of rulings, including discharging the decisions of the original trial judge, now retired Justice Lionel Greenidge.

Their orders included “that Mr. Ward be at liberty to convey The Farm to Mr. Bjerkham in accordance with the memorandum of agreement in respect of the same property dated 24th April 1998 signed by Mr. Ward and Mr. Bjerkham; that Mr. Bjerkham’s counterclaim against Mr. Ward for declaration and for specific performance be allowed”.

The panel also called for “an inquiry into Mr. Walsh’s expenditures and labour on The Farm with a view to reimbursing him for any benefits he conferred on Mr. Ward by his expenditures and labour”.

However, in the notice of application to be filed tomorrow, a copy of which was provided to Barbados TODAY, the legal team of a “dissatisfied” Walsh is seeking a reversal of the November 28 Court of Appeal decision “on the grounds, inter alia, that the said Court of Appeal had erred in several respects in law and in fact in reaching the decisions and making the orders that it made in the Court of Appeal Decision”.

They will also argue that the facts of the case “clearly demonstrate” that Walsh “is entitled to Appeal to the CCJ … on the basis that the proposed appeal is a Final Decision of the Court of Appeal and the appeal involves, directly or indirectly, a claim or a question respecting property or a right of a value of not less than $18,250.00”.

In the written judgement, Justice Burgess called the case a “hard” one.

“It is one of those rare cases where all of the parties have in one way or another impugned the trial judge’s treatment of facts as well as his application of the principles of law,” the decision stated.

The panel also said “there is no doubt that the value of The Farm was increased by the expenditures and labour of Mr. Walsh and his company, Nature’s Produce Inc. It is not difficult to conclude that this increase in the value of The Farm has inevitably resulted in Mr. Ward being unjustly enriched since he did not reimburse Mr. Walsh for his labour and expenditures expended in transforming The Farm from a run-down plantation into an attractive property”.

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