PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Tuesday March 27, 2018 – The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has ordered that a 2014 case concerning the firing of three employees of luxury resort Sandy Lane in Barbados be sent back to the local Court of Appeal for an expedited hearing.
This, after it said it had no jurisdiction to hear the case.
The fired employees had first challenged their dismissal in the local Magistrate’s Court on the basis that they were dismissed without cause—a breach of the procedures outlined in their contracts.
The magistrate determined on September 24, 2014 that the way the employees were terminated violated the terms of their contract and, on the same day, the company, through its attorney, verbally informed the magistrate of its intention to appeal the decision. The attorney followed this with a letter to the Magistrate on October 1, 2014, informing her that he was appealing and requesting the court’s reasons for its decision.
A debate ensured between the Court of Appeal and the hotel’s legal team over whether or not the appeal ought to have been filed under the Magistrate’s Court Act, in which case it would have had to be done within seven days of the verdict, or under the Civil Procedure Rules, which provide for a time limit of 28 days to appeal.
While the hotel held that the appeal was properly filed as it fell under the Civil Procedure Rules, and argued that, in any case, it had given verbal notice within the seven-day period as stipulated under the Magistrate’s Court Act, the Court of Appeal saw it differently, citing an earlier CCJ judgment in the case of Deane v Allamby.
It also rejected the hotel’s letter of October 1, 2014 on the grounds that it was addressed to the magistrate and not the clerk. Therefore, it dismissed the appeal.
However, in its judgment yesterday, the CCJ distinguished its decision in Deane v Allamby from the circumstances of the Sandy Lane case, pointing out that in Dean v Allamby it did not even consider whether the Civil Procedure Rules had any relevance since the appellant in that case had not filed a notice of appeal under the rules.
In this case, the CCJ determined, the appellant had in fact given “immediate, public notice of its intention to appeal,” which was subsequently followed by a notice in writing, and both were within the time period prescribed by the Magistrate’s Court Act.
The regional court said that in all the circumstances, notice was given as a matter of substance and it should not matter that neither counsel nor the clerk regarded those notices as compliant with the requirements of the Magistrate’s Court Act.
Therefore, the CCJ concluded, the appellant had complied with the notice requirement under the Magistrate’s Court Act.
It also recommended that the regime for appealing under the Magistrate’s Court Act requireed legislative intervention to harmonize it with the procedure under the Civil Procedure Rules, the latter being acknowledged as more convenient for appellants.
The CCJ ordered that the appeal to the Court of Appeal be restored and heard on an expedited basis.