CCJ issues decision in Hopewell dispute
An elderly Barbadian couple has won their case against a leading developer, who claims he was left out of pocket by close to $200,000 in a land deal that went sour at Hopewell, Christ Church.
The plot of land in question is owned by the late Glenfield Suttle and his widow Patsena Suttle, who had agreed to sell it to Stanton Gittens, owner of Systems Sales Ltd., have him develop it, and then reconvey it to them.
However, a dispute ensued and after more than 15 years of legal wrangling, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which is this island’s final court of appeal, had the final say on the matter.
In a ruling today, the Trinidad-based court dismissed the application brought by the Gittens against Arletta Brown-Oxley, who is the executor of the Suttle estate.
“The parties to this Barbadian matter entered into a contract to buy and sell a parcel of land identified on ‘a proposed sub-division plan’ but did not attach any plan. The resulting issue was that the purchaser, an experienced land-developer, sought the CCJ’s appellate jurisdiction to order the vendor, an elderly couple, to honour their obligations under the contract relying on one plan, while the vendors insisted they agreed to another,” the Court noted.
Gittens had applied to the CCJ for special leave to appeal two earlier decisions of the Barbados High Court and the Court of Appeal, which also went in favour of the Suttles.
But the regional court did not see any merit in Gittens’ request and has ruled that the developer caused his own losses by rejecting the family’s plan, while insisting on his own.
A Barbados High Court judge had earlier held that the Suttles’ plan was the contractural plan and refused to order specific performance of the buyer’s plan on the basis that it contained a material modification to the contractural plan.
The local Court of Appeal had also agreed with the trial judge’s conclusion and had found that the developer was not entitled to damages because he had failed to plead and prove any specific losses.
Today, the CCJ held the view that Gittens, having been in the land development business for 35 years, had only himself to blame for not clearly identifying the land by a plan.
“The CCJ therefore dismissed the purchaser’s application for special leave to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal because it found no reason to interfere with that decision. It also ordered the purchaser to pay costs of the application to the vendor-respondents,” stated the CCJ in upholding the earlier judgments of the High Court and Court of Appeal in Barbados.
Reacting to the ruling, Oxley-Brown told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that she was elated over the outcome.
Oxley-Brown noted that her father had died a month after the family had achieved their first court victory in April 2006.
“My dad died in May 2006, knowing he had won a victory,” she added.
However, when contacted, Gittens’ response was one of disappointment, not only with the CCJ’s decision, but with the previous local court rulings.
He was adamant that the courts got it wrong by accusing him of changing the plan for the land, and missed the point about the nature of the transaction.
“I never changed it because I never went back to Town Planning. It was one of those things, but I have to go by the ruling. I am disappointed because I think that it was something that flew, even above the justices’ [heads]. I don’t know if it was because of my attorneys’ ruling, or if it was bad interpretation, I don’t know who to blame . . .
“But I know that you cannot accuse me of changing the terms of any agreement, if I have not done anything [to develop the land],” said Gittens, who was adamant that until plans were submitted and the Town Planner had approved them, no changes could be made.
The developer did say though that he had been in discussion with the late Glenfield Suttle to change the plan.
Steve Gollop and Hal Gollop QC appeared before the CCJ on behalf of Gittens, while Alair Shepherd QC and Wendy Maraj represented the Suttle family.