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For vessel ‘arrested’ 15 years ago…State to pay US$2.8m
The State was yesterday ordered to pay more than US$2.8 million, plus interest, for work carried out on a vessel arrested at the Caribbean Drydock Ltd (Caridoc) more than 15 years ago. In a judgment given at the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday, Justice Devindra Rampersad also ruled that interest of three per cent be paid to the plaintiffs from June 1997 to September 2000, and six per cent from September 2000 to yesterday’s date. Rampersad ruled that while the defendant—Office of the Attorney General—was liable for breach of contract, it was not liable in the claims for negligence and trespass. The judge, after hearing evidence from attorneys for both sides, concluded that whether or not there was an oral agreement between the parties, the court was right to infer there was a promise to pay.
“Even if this court is wrong in respect of there being an oral agreement between the parties, I can see no reason why the court cannot imply a promise to pay a reasonable sum for the services provided on a quantum merit basis,” he said. The sum of damages was set at US$2,846,147, with the compounded interest putting the total award at US$4,963,680.38 (TT$31,767,554.36). In the claim outlined by attorney for the plaintiff Fyard Hosein, SC, Caridoc incurred substantial expenses in maintaining the vessel in order for it to stay afloat while under arrest. The vessel was arrested on April 12, 1995, by an attorney, two policemen and an assistant marshal at the Supreme Court Neville David. Evidence adduced by Hosein showed that during discussions with David and Caridoc managing director Kayam Baboolal, it was noted that there would be a cost of keeping the vessel on pier Number 4 at Port Chaguaramas.
It was also discussed that MV Yiannis Z was unsafe and required constant repair work and maintenance to keep her afloat. According to the evidence given by Baboolal, which the judge termed as “unrefuted,” any repair work on the vessel was to be paid by the law firm Pollonais and Blanc through the Marshal of the Supreme Court. This was implicit in the words of David who explained that the vessel was in the custody of the marshal after the arrest. In defence to the lawsuit, attorneys claimed David was merely carrying out a court order and did not request that work be performed on the vessel. They argued further that at no time did the marshal enter into a contract with the plaintiff for berthing or any other services. Rampersad had to consider whether the marshal did in fact enter into an agreement with Caridoc and specifically with was the terms of any agreement. Christopher Hamel-Smith appeared for the Attorney General, while Nalini Sharma instructed Hosein for the plaintiff. The defendant was ordered to pay costs to the plaintiff attorneys.
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