A mother and son have successfully sued the National Agricultural Marketing Company (Namdevco) over a decision to essentially evict them from the Norris Deonarine Wholesale Market in Tunapuna in December 2019 after they paid their monthly rent 10 minutes late.
Delivering a judgement yesterday, High Court Ricky Rahim ruled that the State-agency acted unreasonably in its handling of Lou Ann Gonzales and her son Ken Ali’s case.
In the lawsuit, the owners of K and L Marketing contended that the issue arose when they attempted to pay the $440 rental fee for December 2019, on November 29, that year.
They claimed that because of their error or inadvertence they reached the office almost 10 minutes after the 10 am deadline for making payments.
“I was busy attending to various customers and unfortunately I did not realise that the 10 o’clock deadline was approaching,” Ali said in his affidavit in the case.
They filed the lawsuit after Namdevco’s officials repeatedly refused to accept the payment.
The relatives attempted to pay for the spots well in advance of the deadline for January 2020 but were unable to do so as they (the spots) had been claimed by another vendor.
They have not been able to return to the market as the spots have been continuously rented by their replacement.
In his judgement, Rahim ruled that the policy was properly circulated and articulated as maintained by Namdevco.
“The court finds that the policy was widely circulated well in advance of its implementation and that the claimants were fully aware of the policy and the consequences for non-adherence to the deadline for payment,” Rahim said.
While Rahim ruled that Namdevco was entitled to its policy and gave the relatives an opportunity to be heard, he ruled that its officials acted unreasonably when exercising their discretion to waive it in their case.
“The failure to apply the fact that the delay was a mere 10 minutes after the deadline is in the court’s view a failure to consider a very relevant matter,” Rahim said.
He also took issue with the fact that they considered that the relatives would usually wait until the deadline day to make the payments.
“This is simply not relevant to the decision but has had the effect of being applied to them to their detriment,” Rahim said.
He also said that the officials failed to consider the effect of strict adherence to its policy on the relatives’ business.
As part of his decision in the case, Rahim ruled that they were entitled to compensation for the losses they incurred in December 2019.
However, Rahim did not assess the compensation instead referring the issue for a High Court Master to decide.
The relatives were represented by Jagdeo Singh, Kiel Taklalsingh, and Lana Lakhan, while Ronnie Bissesssar led Namdevco’s legal team.