‘NULLA BONA’: No goods to seize
Hundreds of court orders for the seizure and sale of items amounting to millions of dollars have been piling up in the bailiff offices islandwide because the debts cannot be collected or the persons who owe the debts cannot be found. Head bailiff for Kingston and St Andrew, Augustus Sherriah, says the truth is that many people just cannot pay their debts.
Sherriah says while Jamaicans get excited when they go to court and are awarded hefty sums in judgments, many times the excitement is short-lived because there is no money to collect.
"It is quite challenging because people do not have the resources to satisfy judgments," argued attorney-at-law Sean Kinghorn.
According to Kinghorn, he knows of cases where judgments have been returned with the endorsement 'nulla bona', meaning nothing to get or no goods to seize.
He said those cases were particularly in motor vehicle accidents when there is no insurance coverage.
One of the affected litigants is 65-year-old Daniel Hassan, of Bonham Spring, near Exchange, St Ann.
He has been making regular trips to the bailiff's office in St Ann since 2011 but has not been able to get a cent out of $2 million he was awarded by the court.
Hassan is a cancer patient and he says he would love to get even a quarter of the money right now to help with his medical and living expenses. He has to journey to Kingston on a monthly basis for treatment.
"I am having serious financial problems," said Hassan, who was seriously injured when he was struck by a motor vehicle while riding his motorcycle in St Mary in 1992.
In 1994, he sued the owners of the motor vehicle and was awarded damages in 2011 after the case finally ended its slow crawl through the clogged justice system.
Attorney-at-law Barry Frankson, who represented Hassan, obtained from the Supreme Court an order for seizure and sale and sent it to the bailiff for St Ann to collect the money or seize goods from the owners of the motor vehicle, who at the time lived in Bonham Spring.
But since then, the bailiff, Dwight Davi, has been able to collect only a portion of the money.
"When a motor vehicle is seized and there is a lien on it, if it is sold the company with the lien on it has to be paid first, and many times nothing is left to go towards the judgment debt," explained Davis.
"It makes no sense to seize things that are not marketable," added Davis, as he noted that old cars and old furniture would just be left to rot because nobody will buy them.