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Emile Elias loses Westmoorings lawsuit

Friday, April 6, 2018

Contractor Emile Elias has lost his over three decade long legal battle with a property developer over a townhouse community in Westmoorings.

Delivering a 24-page judgment at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain yesterday morning, Appellate Judges Peter Jamadar, Gregory Smith and Andre Des Vignes dismissed Elias’ appeal over the decision of a High Court judge in 2013 to order him to pay Westmoorings Limited $1.2 million in compensation for delays in completing the project in the 1980s.

The lawsuit centered around 92 townhouses built for the developer between 1983 and 1985 at a cost of $11,568,812.

In the appeal, Elias was challenging the decision of Justice Devindra Rampersad to uphold a clause of the contract which required Elias’ company to pay the developer $1,000 per week for every townhouse not completed by the agreed delivery date.

Smith rejected Elias’ claim that the clause was exorbitant and unconscionable as he noted that the evidence suggested that it served a legitimate business interest and was agreed upon after negotiations between the parties.

“The clause was a genuine pre-estimate of loss and a matter of commercial expediency agreed to between the parties. I find no fault with this finding of the trial judge on the evidence before him,” Smith said. He noted that the contract also contained a clause awarding Elias a $500 bonus for each week that a townhouse was delivered in advance of its due date for completion.

Smith also rejected Elias’ claim that the clause was negated by the fact that the developer had granted him extensions to complete the project as he said that Elias’ contention was not supported by evidence.

“A fact to note is that in assessing the evidence, the trial judge felt compelled to stress and justify on at least three occasions, that he disbelieved the evidence of Elias on critical issues,” Smith said.

The legal dispute first arose in 1988, however, it took 25 years to be determined by the High Court as it did not fall under the Civil Proceedings Rules, which were introduced by the Judiciary in 2005 to increase the efficiency of disposition of cases.

“Without proper case management provisions, this bulky building contract dispute languished in the system until, to his credit, Justice Rampersad, took up the challenge posed and effectively managed and disposed of this case,” Smith said.

As part of the judgment, Elias was ordered to pay the developer’s legal costs for the appeal.

Elias was represented by Alvin Fitzpatrick, SC, while Christopher Hamel-Smith, SC, represented the developer.


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