Mixed results in Blaircourt property appeal

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Blaircourt Development Property
Blaircourt Property

The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal has issued its decision in the long stand matter of the Blaircourt Property.

That matter was appealed by Cara Shillingford-Marsh lawyer for Frederick Baron, Atherton Martin, Severin McKenzie, and Joan Ettienne who had lost in the high court.

In handing down his decision on behalf of the court, Justice of Appeal Davidson Baptiste stated that Mrs. Shillingford-Marsh submits that the learned judge was plainly wrong in finding Baron liable in trespass since “he failed to provide any good reason for such a finding and that his reasoning was based on a misapprehension of the evidence.”

“In my view, this submission is unsustainable,” Baptiste JA stated.

He went on to explain, that “A judge is entitled to express the reasons for his decision briefly, but the reasons must be sufficient to explain why he reached that decision. What is required depends on the nature of the case and no universal template is possible.”

According to Baptiste JA, having regard to the legal framework pertaining to the giving of reasons, “I am of the view that the judge performed his essential judicial role and there could be no doubt as to the reasons why the judge reached his conclusion that Baron trespassed on the Blaircourt property. These reasons were sufficiently apparent from the judgment. The case was not factually complex. “The learned judge dealt with the central matter of the dispute and found that Baron was on the Blaircourt property without Alexis’ permission, had no lawful reason for being there and any implied license he had was revoked by Alexis.”

The court also agreed with Heather Felix-Evans lawyer for Blaircourt who submitted, there was no confusion or inconsistency in the description of the person Laville said she saw enter the villa with Martin and a red-skinned lady. “It is true that Laville did not know the person’s name at the time, and it was the first time she had seen Etienne and in court at the trial was the next time she saw her,” the Judge stated.

He continued, “I agree with Mrs. Felix-Evans that this did not diminish the quality of Laville’s evidence of the description of one of the persons she saw enter the blue villa with Martin. That description was never challenged. There was no issue arising that the description Laville gave of one of the ladies she saw enter the blue villa with Martin did not suit the description of Etienne. What Etienne challenged was that she entered the Blaircourt property and the blue villa. For these reasons, the matters raised by Mrs. Shillingford-Marsh do not undermine the cogency of the judge’s findings.”

“In my judgment, it was clearly open to the judge on the evidence to make a finding of fact that Athie Martin entered the Blaircourt property not only by entering the grounds but by entering the blue villa. Mrs. Shillingford – Marsh contends that the evidence of Blaircourt’s witnesses was so discredited that they should not be believed. In support thereof, Mrs. Shillingford-Marsh posits that Laville said in her witness statement that she saw Martin enter the building. Laville also stated that Alexis did not point the gun in his hand at anyone.”

“It appears to me that learned counsel seeks to persuade the appeal court to form its own evaluation of the credibility or reliability of witness evidence when this is quintessentially a function of the trial judge who has seen and heard the witnesses. It is not for the appeal court to come to an independent conclusion because of its own consideration of the evidence. Whether the appeal court would have reached the same conclusion as the judge is not the point. The question is whether the judge’s finding is rationally supportable. This court sees no basis to interfere with the judge’s finding,” Baptiste JA said.

He stated further, that while Mrs. Shillingford -Marsh submits that the appellants left the public road and departed from the vicinity of the Blaircourt property within a reasonable time after being asked to leave, the issue, in his mind, is not whether the appellants left the public road or the vicinity of the Blaircourt property within a reasonable time after being asked to leave.

“The critical question is: did the appellants depart from the Blaircourt property at a reasonable time or with reasonable expedition after being asked to leave? The learned judge made no finding on that issue, although it formed a subject of interrogation during Alexis’ cross-examination,” he stated.

“In conclusion, the appeal is allowed on the narrow ground that after the appellants’ implied license was revoked, they left the property within a reasonable time.”

“There is no automatic rule that the costs of the successful party will be reduced because it lost on some issues. There are various factors that are likely to weigh in the balance when determining whether to make such an order, although these are generally matters of weight rather than independently determinative considerations. The more significant and self-contained the issues on which the successful party has lost, the more likely it is that some downwards cost adjustment for that failure is appropriate.”

“The appellants won on the discrete point relating to departing within a reasonable time after the implied license was revoked, but they lost on every other issue. This justifies a deduction from the costs payable by the respondent. The ultimate question is what is a just costs order in the circumstances. Standing back and looking at the matter in the round, I consider this to be a case where a departure from the general rule is appropriate. In the circumstances, a just outcome would be that the appellants are awarded ten percent of prescribed costs on appeal.”

Order

 It is ordered that:

(1) The appeal is allowed.

(2) The orders and declaration of the learned judge that:

a. The defendants are liable for trespass with respect to the Blaircourt property.

b. Atherton Martin, Severin Mc Kenzie, and Joan Etienne must each pay $1,500.00 and Frederick Baron $1,000.00 as damages to the claimant.

c. The defendants each pay the claimant, $5,000.00 as exemplary damages; and

d. The claimant is entitled to prescribed costs, which are set aside.

(3) The appellants are awarded prescribed costs in the court below and twenty-five percent on appeal.

(4) The counter-appeal is dismissed.

Find attached the full copies of the decision of the court.

https://natureisle.news/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Frederick-Baron-et-al-v-Blaircourt-Property-FINAL.pdf https://natureisle.news/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Frederick-Baron-et-al-v-Blaircourt-Property-Ltd.pdf