Judge: Guyanese contract claim should be heard in Guyana

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Justice Frank Seepersad.

A HIGH Court judge has ruled that a claim filed in the local courts by a contractor over the construction of a warehouse complex in Guyana for Guy$70.3 million should be heard in the courts of that country.

On Tuesday, Justice Frank Seepersad struck out the claim of Belmer Construction Ltd – with offices incorporated in Guyana – against Triple D’s Inc, also of Guyana.

“The court declares that it shall not exercise its jurisdiction to try the instant claim and further declares that the courts of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana provide a natural, alternative and appropriate forum to determine the instant claim.

“The court declares that there are no exceptional operative circumstances which are applicable so as to justify the continuation of the instant matter before this court,” Seepersad said.

He added he was satisfied there was another available forum to hear the claim. Seepersad said he considered the convenience and expense of the proper jurisdiction to try the case given that the contracted work was one in Guyana so any expert testimony or site visit, if required, would have to be done in Guyana.

“A Guyanese court would be seized of local knowledge as well as the cultural and economic orientation of the Guyanese society in relation to the manner in which business is engaged, especially given the current pace of development and construction.”

He also said the contract between the companies would be applicable to Guyanese laws and pointed out that both companies had Guyanese offices although their principals are living in Trinidad.

“The relevant evidence likely to be adduced, having regard to the issues pleaded in the statement of the case, is by nature firmly rooted in Guyana as the contract was performed in Guyana.”

“…Evidentially, local courts are not best poised to interpret and/or apply the laws of Guyana… This court would be unable to order a Guyanese company, contractor, hardware, regulatory or public authority to disclose any documentation.”

Seepersad said he had an obligation to ensure his court’s limited resources were used and managed in a proportioned manner.

“The court takes judicial notice of Guyana’s growing energy-based economy and there is information within the public domain which suggests that many local companies, professions, skilled workers, and investors are pursuing income generation options in that jurisdiction.

“…Courts in this Republic are already overburdened and taxpayers, without the existence of exceptional circumstances, should not be expected to finance litigation which involves issues connected to contracts, services rendered and or transactions undertaken in another jurisdiction.

“Those who elect to expand their economic opportunities and undertake work abroad should understand that it would be best to resolve resultant issues in the natural and appropriate forums which exist within the jurisdictions in which they opt to pursue economic gains and local courts should not be saddled with the obligation to determine issues simply because the principal contracting party is registered or domiciled in this jurisdiction.”

Belmer was represented by attorneys Shari Fitzpatrick and Cavan Byrne, while attorney Rajiv Sumair appeared for Triple D’s.