A land surveying graduate has emerged victorious in her lawsuit against the Land Survey Board of T&T over its decision to fail her in her examination to become fully qualified.
Delivering a 17-page judgement, earlier this week, Justice Joan Charles upheld Kiara Medina’s judicial review lawsuit against the professional body.
According to the evidence in the case, after Medina obtained her undergraduate degree in Geomatics Engineering and Land Management from the University of the West Indies in 2014, she registered as a graduate land surveyor and began her 24-month practical training.
After completing the internship, she was not allowed to submit a trial survey and participate in the board’s oral examination. She was asked to continue her training for another 24-month period.
While completing her second round of practical training, Medina made several attempts to inquire about the trial survey and examination but was only made aware that she was allowed to participate months after the other candidates.
Medina also sought to challenge the board’s move to increase the examination fee from $500 to $3,000.
Although the board reimbursed the other candidates as the increase was not included in a legislative amendment as required, she was not reimbursed and filed a separate lawsuit on the issue.
The lawsuit was subsequently withdrawn in 2019 as she was informed that the board had shortlisted her for the trial survey and examination.
Medina submitted the trial survey and took the oral exam in June 2020 but the board told her she was unsuccessful having obtained 65 per cent.
She was advised that she would have to wait six months to be re-examined.
In February, last year, she sat a second examination which was conducted by seven members of the board and its secretary/registrar, although the Land Surveyor’s Regulations states that the ‘council of examiners’ should comprise five members.
One of the members of the panel was not a qualified surveyor and asked several technical questions.
Medina claimed that during the examination she was asked extensive questions about the repealed Land Acquisition Act, which should not have been asked as the legislation is no longer valid law.
Medina was eventually informed that she failed a second time having only scored 67.5 per cent.
Medina challenged the score and the board agreed to set it aside and allow her to sit the examination a third time.
Instead, Medina filed the lawsuit in which she alleged that the board was biased against her due to its separate dispute with her sister, who is a qualified land surveyor.
In defence of the case, the board denied any wrongdoing and claimed that it never informed Medina of the first examination late as claimed.
It also questioned the fact that Medina recorded the second oral examination and used it to provide a transcript for the lawsuit before Justice Charles.
In her judgement, Justice Charles criticised the board for its handling of the second examination, especially the extensive questioning on old legislation.
“It is baffling to this court that the other members of this examining panel were oblivious of what should have been a glaring error and purported to not to grade her on his erroneous basis but to fail her,” Justice Charles said.
“In the face of the inexplicable shortcomings of the Board, I think that it was wrong for them to callously condemn the applicant to a third exam instead of giving her a passing grade which any reasonable, fair minded examiner would have awarded her,” she added.
Justice Charles stated that while the board denied being unprofessional and untoward towards Medina, it was difficult for her not to come to that conclusion based on the evidence.
She also noted that while the board criticised Medina for providing a transcript of the meeting from her recording, it failed to produce its own transcript to challenge her claims.
In her judgement, Justice Charles issued a series of declarations against the board and an order compelling it to award Medina a passing mark of 71 per cent.
Justice Charles ruled that Medina was entitled to compensation for the hardship and loss of income suffered due to the “illegal and tainted procedure” adopted by the board, but left it to a High Court Master to assess the damages at a later date.
Medina was represented by Matthew Gayle, while Colvin Blaize and Kathy Ann Joseph represented the board.