Sun | Sep 24, 2023

IT company loses claim for US$100m from gov't over terminated tablets contract

Published:Thursday | June 8, 2023 | 2:15 PM
The two entities entered into a contract valued at US$16 million in November 2018, for GeoTech to supply 19,305 tablets to public schools.  - File photo

The Supreme Court has dismissed a claim by IT firm GeoTech Vision for state-owned e-Learning Jamaica Company to pay more than US$100 million for terminating a contract to supply over 19,000 tablets to schools in 2019. 

e-Learning won its counterclaim in the sum of J$155,640, with interest at a rate of six per cent per annum. 

GeoTech will also have to pay legal costs in both claims.

Justice Lisa Palmer Hamilton handed down judgment on Thursday. 

GeoTech filed the lawsuit in February 2020 and the matter was heard on various dates in 2021 and 2022. 

The two entities entered into a contract valued at US$16 million in November 2018, for GeoTech to supply 19,305 tablets to public schools. 

However, by October the following year, e-Learning ended the contract, claiming that GeoTech failed to deliver the tablets and related accessories. 

The government company accused GeoTech of missing several deadlines and submitting poor quality samples of tablets between February 2019 when the order was made and September 2019 when the contract was expected to be fulfilled. Up to July 25, 2019 only 1,100 tablets had reached Jamaica. 

In one instance, e-Learning told the court that it received five “gold standard” tablets in June 2019 which tests later found to be non-functional and well below the required standards specified in the contract, the court judgment noted. 

e-Learning also rejected claims by GeoTech that it was responsible for the delays because, among other things, it did not provide a requested list of schools.

A miffed GeoTech filed its lawsuit, accusing e-Learning of wrongfully terminating the contract. It also sought damages of J$500,000 and US$105 million to cover work it had done. 

Justice Palmer Hamilton said it was not in dispute that when the contract was terminated GeoTech had only 4,354 tablets in Jamaica and "this would mean that at the start of the school year in 2019, the 19,305 tablets and associated accessories were not available for roll out". The bulk of the devices arrived in Jamaica at the end of September. 

"Where a party fails to comply with the terms and conditions of a contract, the innocent party is entitled to rescind the said contract. This is what the Defendant Company (e-Learning) elected to do in this case," the judge said, after dismissing GeoTech's reasons for the delays, such as shipping. 

The judge also said that "having found that the defendant company did not breach the contract", GeoTech "would not be entitled to any damages". 

She also agreed that the sample tablets that e-Learning received did not meet the specifications under the contract. 

e-Learning's counterclaim against GeoTech involved US$25,000 for legal services retained to terminate the contract and J$156,000 used to re-advertise the contract in local media. 

While the judge did not accept the argument regarding the legal services, she accepted that the re-advertisement "naturally arises" from the breach of contract and ordered GeoTech to pay e-Learning $155,640, figure from an invoice submitted. 

e-Learning was represented by Linton Gordon and his son Obika Gordon, both from the firm Frater, Ennis & Gordon. 

King's Counsel Denise Kitson and attorneys Kevin Williams and Gordon McFarlane argued for GeoTech.

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