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Appeals Court slashes multimillion-dollar award in Westmoreland hotel saga

Published:Monday | January 5, 2015 | 8:37 AM

Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

KINGSTON, Jamaica:

The Appeals Court has significantly reduced a multimillion-dollar award against Westmoreland hotel, Bungaloo and its operator, who were sued for land trespassing.

In 2009 the Supreme Court had ordered the hotel and its operator, Patrick Woolcock, to pay $13.5 million to David and Audrey Sykes, the shareholders and directors of the company which operates Firefly Cottages Negril.

However, in a judgement handed down recently, the appeals court slashed that award to $1 million, accepting arguments that the judge who tried the lawsuit made numerous errors.

Woolcock had appealed a Supreme Court ruling in September 2009 where judgement was awarded against him and the hotel for $10 million for trespassing and $3.5 million in respect of public nuisance.

The Sykeses had claimed in their lawsuit that in August 1995, Bungaloo and Woolcock constructed a wall on their land without their knowledge and consent.

They also accused Bungaloo and Woolcock of dumping raw sewage at the boundary of their land, causing pungent odours to pervade the property, affecting their comfort and the enjoyment of guests.

Woolcock appealed, arguing that the trial judge, Marjorie Cole-Smith, erred when she held that the wall had encroached on the property of the Sykeses.

They argued that the awards made by the judge were not supported by evidence.

They further argued that the judge misdirected herself in finding that there was insufficient evidence of nuisance yet went on to find that there was public nuisance.

It was also argued that the judge misdirected herself in awarding damage for trespassing on private property as the claimants failed to provide evidence of the damage suffered.

The Appeals Court accepted the submissions made by lawyers Raphael Codling and Anishka Biggs and ruled that the appeal be allowed in parts.

The court set aside damage for public nuisance and awarded general damage for trespassing to the Sykeses in the sum of $1 million.

The Sykeses are to pay half the legal cost of appeal.

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