Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Claim against NSWMA for Riverton fire still under consideration

Published:Wednesday | August 21, 2019 | 12:29 AM
Activity at the Riverton City dump as captured in November 2015.
Activity at the Riverton City dump as captured in November 2015.

More than five years after four persons filed a lawsuit against the National Solid Waste Management Authority, NSWMA, seeking ­damages arising from a 2012 fire at the Riverton City dump in Kingston that they said affected their health, the matter is yet to be settled.

Legal director at the NSWMA, Gail Mitchell said that as at the last court date in 2018, the parties were to have had discussions to explore settlement on the claims for ­personal injury.

“Notwithstanding, the matter is still under consideration,” said Mitchell in response to Financial Gleaner queries. “The position is that the NSWMA will act ­subsequent to further legal advice,” she said.

The NSWMA had sought to defeat the claim as a frivolous lawsuit. However, in February 2018, the Court of Appeal sided with a Supreme Court judge that the claim filed against the public cleansing agency should be heard by the Full Court.

Court of Appeal Justice Frank Williams, who wrote the decision on behalf of the three-member panel, agreed with Supreme Court Justice Audre Lindo that the claim was worthy of adjudication. Lindo had ruled that there were novel points that included issues of constitutionality and redress that would best be resolved at a hearing by the Full Court.

The lawsuit was filed in June 2014 by Louie Johnson, Joya Hylton, Ernest Sandcroft, and minor Lamoy Malabre – residents of Kingston, St Andrew, and St Catherine – alleging that their right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse and degradation of the ecological heritage had been contravened by the NSWMA.

They alleged that the NSWMA had failed to effectively manage the Riverton City disposal site and that they had suffered injuries as a result of a fire there that burned for six days from February 6, 2012, but produced fumes lasting up to the end of that month.

The Full Court hearing was initially set for May 8 to 10, 2017, but was delayed after the NSWMA challenged the claim before the Supreme Court. Lindo dismissed the waste agency’s application and reset the Full Court hearing for May 14, 2018. But the agency sought to have that ruling overturned on the basis that the lawsuit had no merit.

The Court of Appeal ruled, ­however, that the NSWMA had failed to demonstrate that it had a reasonable chance of success if it were allowed to appeal Lindo’s order.

According to the Supreme Court’s record of proceedings, when the matter came up for pre-trial review in April 2018, the trial dates of May 14 to 17, 2018, in the Full Court were vacated and the parties were to have discussions with a view to settling the matter.

Attorney William Panton, who is representing the claimants, was not reached for comment. However, his office said that they were all waiting for the NSWMA to act.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com