Government fights Arch Cot judgment
Hopes for a speedy payout to the surviving relatives of those who died when the Shalom Apartment Complex at Arch Cot in Brittons Hill, St Michael collapsed into a cave in August 2007 have taken another major hit.
Five people – Donavere Codrington, his wife Cassandra and three of their children – perished in the incident.
High Court Justice Sonia Richards last month ordered Government to pay damages to the surviving dependents in the multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by attorney-at-law David Comissiong several years ago.
Justice Richards’ ruling gave the ten claimants “liberty to enter judgment” against Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite for damages and costs to be agreed upon or assessed after finding the office of Government’s principal legal adviser had failed to file a defence to the suit.
The decision was described as a victory by a member of the family who had been waiting for almost nine years for compensation, following what has been described as one of the most horrific incidents ever in Barbados.
However, Comissiong told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that Government has decided to appeal that judgment by formally asking the same judge to overturn the earlier decision.
In fact, Comissiong said the court would on July 19, hear the State’s application to have the default judgment set aside.
“If they are applying to have the default judgment set aside, that is a matter the judge will have to consider. We have a default judgment that says ‘damages to be assessed’ . . . either to be agreed between the parties, or failing that, to be assessed by the judge. So those are matter that would come back before the judge as well, if we can’t have some agreement between us,” he said.
“Suffice it to say, this matter still has some distance to go before it is fully resolved,” the prominent attorney said, adding that any possibility of a conclusion before year end would depend on the willingness of the parties to compromise and resolve the issues out of court.
He pointed out that if there were no appetite for an out of court settlement and everything had to be determined by the judge, there would then have to be a hearing on the State’s application to quash the default judgment.
“Depending on the outcome of that hearing, then we would actually have to have hearings before the judge to quantify the damages for each of the ten claimants,”
The attorney and social activist told Barbados TODAY that Government would have to satisfy the court that it had good reasons to set aside its earlier ruling. “So, the onus would be on them. They would now have to convince the judge that she should in fact, for whatever reasons, set aside the default judgment. Of course, we would oppose that. We would be making a case that there are no good grounds for setting aside the default judgment,” he stressed.
However, Comissiong said he was hoping that in spite of all the “legal manoeuvring”, to quantify his clients’ claims and submit them to the Attorney General for his consideration “to see if we can move beyond all of these legal manoeuvrings and resolve the matter between ourselves”.
While parents and siblings of the adult victims are involved in the suit, the action is also being taken on behalf of the three surviving children – Doniya, Doniko and Zavier.
Two years ago, Comissiong expressed confidence that the ten surviving relatives would finally get justice. And he was also hopeful they could even have had their case settled out of court.
Comissiong, along with his colleague Kristin Turton, filed the suit in the Supreme Court on December 12, 2014 claiming unspecified damages for bereavement, funeral expenses, guidance, care and companionship.