Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Route taxi operator awarded $7.3 million over seizure of vehicle

Published:Wednesday | May 10, 2017 | 5:00 AM

The Transport Authority has been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay $7.3 million to the owner of a route taxi whose vehicle was seized for almost eight years and was never returned.

The award was made to businesswoman Trecia Miller of a St Catherine address.

Miller owned a Toyota Caldina motor car for which she had a licence to operate as a route taxi.

On August 28, 2009, a Transport Authority vehicle collided with the taxi, which was being operated by her driver.

Miller's vehicle was then placed on a wrecker, which was travelling behind the Transport Authority vehicle, and taken away.

Miller said she made various trips to the Transport Authority to determine the location of her vehicle, but without success.

She filed a suit in November 2009 seeking damages for negligence, loss of earnings and the cost of the motor vehicle.

Supreme Court Judge Courtney Daye, after hearing legal submissions from attorneys-at-law Dr Garth Lyttle and RenÈe Malcolm, who represented Miller, made the award with interest at three per cent from November 2009 to March 2017 as well as legal costs.

With businesswoman Trecia Miller's 1999 Toyota Caldina motor car not being returned to her by the Transport Authority, the Supreme Court ordered that $500,000 - representing the value of the vehicle - be included in the $7.3 million awarded.

Justice Daye, in handing down his decision, expressed surprise that up to the date of the trial of the case in March this year, "there was a refusal" to return the motor vehicle to Miller, although representatives of the Transport Authority said it was at the Lakes Pen pound in St Catherine.

WRONGFUL INTERFERENCE

The judge, in ruling that the tort of detinue and conversion had been proved, pointed out that there was wrongful interference and deprivation of Trecia Miller's personal property. The judge said there was no evidence to say attempts were made to deliver the motor vehicle but, to the contrary, Miller made every effort to retrieve it.

It was the judge's finding that it was the first defendant, Sheldon Lilly, an employee of the Transport Authority, who crashed into the claimant's motor vehicle and ordered it placed on a wrecker, which took it away.

The judge said the evidence for the defence was that the motor vehicle had a road licence, therefore the defence could not say that it was off route, and, further, the circumstances did not justify the seizure of the motor vehicle.

The defendant contended that the claimant's driver was placed before the court. However, Daye ruled that the defence produced no copy of the summons or information, therefore the standard of proof was not established.