May 20, 2022 News
– as Full Court split on decision in libel case
Kaieteur News – A split decision by the Full Court on Thursday has resulted in a default judgment against Vice President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo being upheld.
The default appeal was granted against the VP, in favour of Opposition Member of Parliament Annette Ferguson over a defamation suit that she filed against him in 2020. Jagdeo had appealed to Full Court.
However, as a result of the division in the Full Court, the decision of the trial Judge who found that the statements made by Jagdeo against Ferguson were defamatory and libelous still stands. Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire ruled to dismiss the appeal filed by Jagdeo, while Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry ruled to allow the appeal.
As a consequence, Jagdeo’s lawyer, Davendra Kissoon requested and was granted a stay on the ruling for eight weeks to consult with the VP on a possible next move forward.
VP Jagdeo had moved to the Full Court in his bid to have the $20M default judgment awarded to former Housing Minister, and A Partnership National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament, Annette Ferguson for libel, thrown out.Jagdeo lost the libel case to Ferguson, because of his failure to file his defence in keeping with the time limit and rules of the Court. Ferguson had sued Jagdeo over some alleged slanderous statements, which he made about her owning house lots. The statements were published in the Guyana Times newspaper which Ferguson also sued. The case against the newspaper is still to be determined.
In the case against Jagdeo, a default judgment was granted by Justice Sandra Kurtzious in the sum of $20M to Ferguson, after he failed to defend the case. Justice Kurtzious recently reinforced her decision, but set a date to review at the $20M award with the intention of possibly reducing it. That hearing was set for July 28, 2021.
However, through his attorney, Jagdeo has approached the Full Court to ask that the decision be set aside and reversed in its entirety.
He had asked the court to grant him leave to file his defence to the action within seven days of the date, and extending the relevant case management timelines to allow him to properly defend the claim.
Further, the Vice President sought an order declaring that Part 12 in particular Rule 12.02 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) or Court rules violates Article 144(8) of the Constitution.
According to documents seen by this newspaper, Jagdeo through his attorney alluded to a number of grounds in which the appeal to the Full Court is made. Among other things, he contends that the trial Judge erred by in law and in fact, by finding that he had no real prospect of defending the claim. Jagdeo posited specifically that Justice Kurtzious erred and misdirected herself in law, by entering a default judgment against him without considering all of the grounds of his defence, including the defence of justification.
Jagdeo noted that the trial Judge erred in law by failing to appreciate the overriding objective of the Civil Procedure Rules 2016, in ensuring justice between both parties– factors set forth in CPR 12:03 (3). He said too, that the Judge erred inter alia by placing undue emphasis on Ferguson‘s pleadings, without giving similar regard to his defence.
“…. The learned trial Judge erred in law, and in fact, by attempting to assess the evidence and conducting a mini-trial, as opposed to merely finding that the appellant [Jagdeo] had a real prospect of success, overlooking and failing to assess the facts averred in his pleadings which would be proved at trial,” he contended in the Notice of Appeal.
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