Father, daughter fight to recover $16m property
Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter
A father who used his land title as security for debts allegedly owed by his daughter to Shields Enterprises Ltd after she was accused of defrauding the company is now engaged in a legal battle in the Supreme Court to recover his $16-million property.
Danny McNamee, of Spitzburgen, Chudleigh, Manchester, has, since November 1994, been filing lawsuits in relation to the property, but was not successful.
Last month, McNamee, who is being represented by attorney-at-law Kerry-Ann Ebanks, instructed by the law firm Bishop & Partners, won his first victory when the Court of Appeal set aside an order by Resident Magistrate Sonia Bertram-Linton for him to vacate the property at Spitzburgen before May 9, 2007 and possession be given to Shields Enterprises Ltd.
Court of Appeal judges Dennis Morrison, Hillary Phillips and Norma McIntosh transferred the recovery of possession case to the Supreme Court to be consolidated with the 2007 lawsuit filed by McNamee and his daughter.
Possession of the property has been restored to McNamee pending the outcome of the suit.
McNamee's legal woes started in November 9, 1994 when his daughter, Suzette, who was employed as a cashier at Shields Enterprises, was accused of stealing money from her employer. He said, in court documents, that he was at home that day at Spitzburgen when a truck driver told him that attorney-at-law Barlow Ricketts said he should bring his land title and come to see him immediately.
He said he complied because it was Ricketts who had assisted him in acquiring the title for his property. He went with the driver to Shields Enterprises, where he saw Harry Shields, the managing director, and Ricketts.
He said at Ricketts' request, he handed over the title. Three documents were signed that day, one of which Suzette signatured, acknowledging that she had fraudulently removed $359,000, property of Shields Enterprises from the cash register.
She agreed to transfer her Subaru motor car valued at $80,000 to offset some of the money owed by her, and her father would give his house title as collateral to offset the balances owed when a detailed audit was completed.
McNamee, the father, signed two documents, one in which he agreed to give his property as collateral to offset all amounts owed by his daughter when the audit was completed. In the other document, he agreed that when the sum owed by his daughter was determined, a legal mortgage for the amount was to be registered against the title.
A mortgage dated November 11, 1994 was registered in favour of Shields Enterprises on the certificate of title to secure $810.285.48 with interest.
Suzette McNamee was convicted on March 15, 2001 of 10 counts of larceny as a servant and was given a suspended sentence. She appealed on March 29 that year, but her appeal was not heard until March 2008. Following submissions made by attorney-at-law Keith Bishop, the Court of Appeal quashed her convictions.
In the interim, Shields Enterprises got an order for foreclosure under Section 120 of the Registration of Titles Act and a new certificate of title was issued to it on November 16, 2005 as owner of the property previously owned by McNamee.
The father and daughter had taken action in the Supreme Court from as far back as November 18, 1994 to prevent Harry Shields from dealing with the motor car and the property, but the action was dismissed for want of prosecution because of inordinate delay in prosecuting the action. The McNamees said the action was not pursued because of financial constraints.
A second action was filed in February 2005 against Shields Enterprises and the Registrar of Titles to bar the foreclosure. The foreclosure was made by the Registrar of Titles on January 27, 2007.
The Supreme Court threw out the suit in July 2005 on the grounds that it was without merit.
Seeking $8 million
Another action was filed in the Supreme Court in February 2007 by the McNamees seeking to bar the company from selling and recovering possession of the property and for it to be to retransferred to Mr McNamee. Ms McNamee is seeking $8 million for loss of use of her motor car.
They have alleged fraud against the respondent Shields Enterprises, contending that it used the office of managing director, as well as physical and mental abuse, to force Ms McNamee to sign a document alleging a debt which did not exist.
The McNamees also charge that the respondent encouraged Mr McNamee to hand over his title with the belief that attorney-at-law Barlow Ricketts would require the said title for further legal work to connect to Mr McNamee.
They also allege that the respondent used Ricketts to encourage Mr McNamee to sign documents, knowing that Rickets was acting as lawyer for the company.
Shields Enterprises, which is represented by attorneys-at-law Garth McBean and Jeffrey Daley, has denied the allegations. McBean told The Gleaner that the daughter was freed on a technicality and his client will be vigorously defending the civil suit.
An application was made before RM Bertram-Linton for the recovery of possession case to be transferred to the Supreme Court, but she refused and struck out Mr McNamee's defence.
Following the RM's ruling, Mr McNamee took the issue to the Court of Appeal. The court restored possession of the property to Mr McNamee and transferred the respondent's recovery of possession case to the Supreme Court to be tried with the 2007 suit filed by the claimants.