SporTT’s $34m LifeSport lawsuit reinstated

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

THE SPORT Company of TT ((SporTT) can pursue its claim of negligence against its former CEO and 13 ex-board members arising out of the failed LifeSport programme.

On Thursday, by a ruling of the Court of Appeal on its procedural challenge, SporTT’s negligence claim and relief for the repayment of the $34 million paid to eBeam Interact Ltd by SporTT for literacy and numeracy services were reinstated.

In November, last year, Justice Ricky Rahim struck out the company’s negligence claim because “it could not be sustained in the absence of proof of actual loss or damage,” which he said was a crucial element of the tort of negligence.

He also struck out a claim for equitable compensation of $34 million, which SporTT was seeking, in relation to a contract signed by the former board in June 2013.

What was left for the trial was the allegation of breach of fiduciary duty which all 14 would have to defend and the judge left it openfor the crafting of a suitable order in the event a breach of fiduciary duty was found to exist.

Named as defendants in the claim are former directors Sebastian Paddington, Chlea Lamsee-Ebanks, Reynold Bala, Morris Blanc, Nisa Dass, Anly Gopeesingh, Sabrenah Khayyam, Cheemattee Martin, Matthew Quamina, Annan Ramnansingh, Kent Samlal, Harnarine Seeram Singh, Milton Siboo and former CEO John Mollenthiel.

Immediately after his ruling, SporTT’s attorneys appealed his decision. The trial has been set for September 10-October 1, 2024, at the Waterfront Judicial Centre, Port of Spain.

At the procedural appeal, heard by Justices Peter Rajkumar and Ronnie Boodoosingh, the company said the judge was wrong in striking out the negligence aspect of the claim and erred in law.

The judges agreed.

Rajkumar, who delivered the unanimous decision, said there was a distinction between evidence of the existence of loss and evidence of proof of its quantum.

“The trial judge’s formulation of ‘ascertainable evidence of loss’ elided the distinction between the two. It is not unusual for a party to establish loss but fail to prove its quantum.

“This does not deprive a court of jurisdiction to assess damages as best it can, including making an award of nominal damages if appropriate.”

Rajkumar also said Rahim erred by failing to appreciate that the issue of the existence of loss was raised by SporTT in its statement of the case and the statement of one of its witnesses.

“The pleading of the company was not dependent on proof of loss of the specific quantum of $34,000,000.00 or any other specific quantum.”

He said the issue of the existence of a loss was one to be raised for assessment at trial.

“Once evidence of the existence of loss was shown to exist, the weight to be attributed to that evidence, or even the evidence as to its quantum, was a matter for trial, and not for determination in a mini-trial at a preliminary stage prior thereto.

“The trial judge, therefore, erred in striking out the claim for negligence.”

The Appeal Court judges also dismissed the appeal by the directors for the entire claim against them to be thrown out.

In submissions before the court in March, Colin Kangaloo, SC, who leads the SporTT’s legal team, insisted that his client raised a prima facie case against the 14 and its evidence should have been interrogated at trial.

He also insisted there were sufficient pleadings on the loss suffered by the company arising out of the contract with eBeam.

“As is normal in these types of cases, on the evidence, the full amount may not be proven.”

However, he said the court could award the $34 million for negligence or any amount it saw fit.

“If proof of loss had fallen short, we can get equitable compensation or nominal damages.”

In the ruling, Rajkumar agreed that it was open to the judge to consider whether loss had been established even on a prima facie basis and to consider the weight of the assertion in the context of the entirety of the evidence.

“The need for a trial could not be short-circuited by conflating perceived difficulties with proof of the quantum of loss with the inability to establish any loss at all.”

Also appearing with Kangaloo were John Lee and Stephanie Moe. Appearing for the 14 ex-directors were Anand Beharrylal, KC, Anthony Vieira, SC, Rishi Dass, SC, Jagdeo Singh, Shiv Sharma, Karina Singh, Keston Lewis, Roger Kawalsingh, Ravi Mungalsingh, Tara Bhariosingh, Anil Maraj, Nicole de Verteuil-Milne, Adrian Ramoutar, Sushma Gopeesingh, Kamini Persaud-Maraj, Neil Bisnath, Lydia Mendonca, Richard Jagai, Andrea Bhagwandeen, and Dharmendra Punwassee.