Legal Aid wins victory for single mother of 5

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Laura Ramdeen’s home on Toco Main Road, Cumana, Toco.

The Legal Aid and Advisory Authority (LAAA) has secured victory for a homeowner in Toco who was facing a threat of her home being demolished.

Albrosco Ltd alleged the homeowner, Laura Ramdeen, was squatting on their lands. But on March 19, its attorneys withdrew a trespass claim after a land survey – paid for by the LAAA’s attorney out of his own pocket – showed her home was not on the company’s land.

On Tuesday, Justice Robin Mohammed allowed Albrosco’s attorneys to discontinue the claim against Ramdeen and ordered the company to pay her legal costs. Ramdeen was full of praise for LAAA’s counsel Javier Forrester and the authority. “Without them, I would have lost my home.”

The judge referred her to the LAAA in 2021 when the claim against her was filed. Albrosco sought a court order for her to vacate the land and to demolish her house. The mother of five said when she appeared in court, she did not have money to pay for a lawyer, as she was struggling to save to repair her leaking roof. Since she could not properly defend herself, the judge suggested she seek the assistance of the LAAA and gave her time to do so.

She went to the LAAA’s offices in November 2021 and after she paid $50, Forrester was assigned to represent her. In court, he sought an extension of time to file her defence and was permitted to do so. In submissions, Forrester argued that the company was mistaken about the boundaries of its property, based on landmarks found in a 1918 survey plan, a cadastral map, and photos of Ramdeen’s home.

He also argued there was a risk of injustice if Ramdeen’s home was demolished in the absence of a survey to prove ownership of the land. Ramdeen had occupied the land for over 14 years. In July 2021, Forrester suggested a survey report be done to determine where Ramdeen’s home was located in relation to Albrosco’s land. Ramdeen said after the parties could not agree on a surveyor, Forrester paid $4,500 for the survey. The survey report showed her land was not on Albrosco’s.

The matter then came up for hearing on March 19, when Albrosco was allowed to withdraw its claim. In its claim, Albrosco contended Ramdeen was a trespasser on a portion of its 101 acres of land in the Cumana, Toco, area. The claim alleged she received several letters ordering her to stop all work being done on her home and vacate the land.

Ramdeen told Newsday she felt intimidated when faced with the prospect of losing her home. The single mother of five said she did not know what else to do but never gave up. She said she is unemployed but does what she can to earn for her family, including selling coconut oil by the side of the road. “That was my home…but I never gave up.”

She said even when she was faced with the prospect of paying for the survey, she felt frustrated. “That was impossible for me to do.” She heaped praise on Forrester for paying for it. “He is such a kind person. I am really happy he was my lawyer. I couldn’t do it on my own. He stood up for me. He was fair and explained everything to do.”

The LAAA provides legal advice and representation on a variety of legal matters including civil, criminal (through the Public Defenders Department), and family law. Albrosco was represented by attorneys Crystal Dottin and Russell Huggins.