The case had all the ingredients to be a successful slam dunk but failed when “the defendants did not give a good explanation for the failure to file a defence on time.”
Lawyer Kay-Bacchus-Baptiste and a representative of an insurance company sought to lay blame on phone connectivity issues in a digital world where email and other forms of communication are available.
Mr Edrick Jackson brought a claim against truck owners Yankee Girl Investment Limited and their driver Wayne Lewis for personal injuries suffered during an incident at the Kingstown Container Port last year.
However, before the Court was able to determine if indeed the company and its driver was liable, the two did not submit a defence to the claim on time.
According to the court records with affidavit support, Yankee Girl Investment Ltd received notice of the claim on December 17th, 2019 while Mr Lewis received his notice on December 16th, 2019.
However, in both cases, by February 27, 2020 with no defence being filed, the court entered a judgment in default in favour for Mr Jackson.
Lawyer Kay Bacchus-Browne petitioned the Court to reverse its judgment and allow the defendants to file their defence as intended.
Ms. Lynette Jameson, an Office Clerk at Kay Bacchus-Baptiste Chambers swore by affidavit that they had trouble contacting the driver Mr Lewis as “calls to him kept cutting out” and he was out of State in St. Lucia.
However, in a twist, evidence supplied by the Office Clerk which included a photocopy of Mr Lewis passport did not support the excuse that he was in St. Lucia during the dates that Bacchus-Baptiste Chambers claimed he was, according to Quince Fergus a Legal Clerk working for Attorney Paula David who represented Mr Jackson in the matter.
More troubling was evidence by a Claims Manager at Sentry West Indian Insurances Ltd, Mr Terron Davis who was dealing with the claim submitted by Mr Jackson. Mr Davis evidence by affidavit was discredited as he acknowledged receipt of the documents in December but claimed he did not send them to their lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste until February when he saw them again.
Terron swore to the Court that remodelling at the insurance company caused the documents to be mixed up with “general paper work”. He also said that it proved difficult to contact Mr Lewis by telephone who was at the scene of the accident “because his number kept calling and cutting out.”
He claimed that phones in St. Vincent were dropping calls and cutting out.
However, the Court was not impressed with the explanation with Master Tamara Gill stating:
“The dropping of calls resulting in the late filing of a defence cannot be acceptable as a reason why counsel was unable to take instructions to file the defence.”
“The means of communication available in today’s world give ample opportunity for attorney and client to conduct business in order to meet deadlines or otherwise. Technical problems experienced on phone calls do not suffice as a good explanation in this case.”
“I am of the view that the explanation of the defendants for the documents and the remodelling amounts to administrative deficiencies or administrative difficulties or oversight, inexcusable in my view in the circumstances.”
However, on viewing the proposed defence filed on behalf of Yankee Girl Investment Ltd and Mr Lewis, Master Tamara Gill said they stood a good chance of being successful as Mr Lewis may have acted recklessly causing his own injury.
According to the proposed defence:
Mr Edrick Jackson forced his truck into a narrow space, alighted from it and tried to get back into it on the blind side of Mr Lewis. Mr Lewis could not see the Mr Jackson who did nothing to warn that he had recklessly stopped where there was not enough room to pass.
Mr Lewis was driving a truck belonging to Yankee Girl Investments Ltd.