Appeal Court settles ownership of Carnbee property

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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A legal dispute over one-and-a-half lots of land in Carnbee, Tobago, has been settled by the Court of Appeal, which upheld a judge’s ruling on entitlement to the property.

On February 27, Justices of Appeal Mark Mohammed, Maria Wilson and Ronnie Boodoosingh dismissed Elaine Cipriani’s appeal of Justice Kevin Ramcharan’s ruling, which distinguished her title to the Carnbee property in 2018.

Before Ramcharan was a claim by Ganesh Ram, whose grandfather, Balkissoon Ram, lived on the land.

Balkissoon was married to Dolly Ram. She was the mother of Vera Francis, the wife of Krishna Francis. Krishna Francis later transferred the property to Cipriani in 2009 and Ram was ordered to vacate the premises immediately.

However, Ram contended he was entitled to adverse possession of the land, since his family had been making improvements on the property dating back to 1983. Ram also maintained he continued paying water and electricity rates after his grandfather’s death and was also in “undisturbed possession” of the property for over 16 years.

He asked for a declaration that Cipriani’s title had been extinguished and he had an equitable interest in the property.

Ramcharan granted him the declarations, having found he had set out his case for adverse possession, and ordered nominal damages of $6,000 for trespass.

At the appeal, Cipriani’s attorneys argued that the judge did not correctly assess the evidence to come to the finding of possession.

However, Boodoosingh, who delivered the Appeal Court’s decision, said the judge was correct to conclude Ganesh Ram was entitled to possession.

He said Balkissoon Ram’s adverse possession began when his wife died and when he died, his grandson Ganesh continued in uninterrupted possession.

“Balkissoon’s years of occupation were to be added to Ganesh Ram’s so by the time of the filing of the claim in 2016 that adverse possession had extinguished the owner’s title,” he ruled.

“There is no basis on the well-established principles of appellate judicial restraint to conclude that the judge made any sufficient error in construing the evidence or that his findings on the facts were unreasonable or unjustified when considering the evidence as a whole. There is no basis to impeach the judge’s findings of fact.”

Boodoosingh also said there was no basis to disturb the award of damages for trespass.

Cipriani was represented by Lennox Phillips Jr and Myrna Walters, Dawn Palackdharrysingh represented Ram.