Chicken farmer cries foul - JPS ordered to pay $65m but appeal will intensify distress, says claimant
After winning a 12-year legal battle with the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) for land trespass, Rosemarie Samuels is being dragged back to court as the light and power company is appealing the award of $65 million to the chicken farmer.
The back-and-forth has left the 58-year-old wary of what could be another withering round of a battle that she says has left her at her wits’ ends.
“Mi tired! Mi really, really tired! It frustrates me, and right now during this heavy rain, I have to be watching myself because the houses are on the piece of land that all the water walk through,” Samuels told The Gleaner as rains from the outer bands of Tropical Storm Eta drenched the island on Tuesday.
Samuels purchased a property in Rhymesbury, Clarendon, in 2003 to venture into chicken rearing on contract with Jamaica Broilers, but the process was stalled for four years by her not being able to erect the modernised chicken houses because of overhead power lines and poles across its perimeter.
JPS had had an arrangement with the previous holder of the land but that licence surrounding its erection and maintenance of the lines lapsed when the property was transferred to a new owner.
By law, the company was supposed to seek legal approval from Samuels as the new owner.
The Supreme Court, on September 25, awarded Samuels damages in trespass against JPS of $65 million with interest of three per cent per annum dating back to April 2008.
“The court accepts that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Ms Samuels would have been able to generate greater income from her operations had she been able to construct the two additional chicken houses on the said land. She was deprived of the use and benefit of a portion of the said land and suffered loss of income as a consequence,” the judgment read in part.
The claimant was also awarded damages amounting to $1.5 million with three per cent interest. This sum represents the market value of the area of the land on which the JPS equipment was located.
When contacted for a comment, the JPS said the matter was being reviewed by its legal team.
The company noted, however, that “JPS is permitted by law to negotiate easements with landowners. This particular easement was negotiated in 1995 and had peculiar issues. It doesn’t affect JPS’s policies, which are compliant with Jamaica’s laws”.
Samuels laments that she has grown weary of cancelling business plans and scheduling her life around court dates, believing that JPS has been stalling to try to avoid payment.
The poles were removed from her property on October 11, 2019.
The agreement with Jamaica Broilers was for her to erect six chicken houses within a specific time frame but the company reportedly withdrew the offer as the obstruction prevented her from meeting the construction terms, Samuels said. As a result, she said that she incurred additional expenses and was forced to wait four years for applications to reopen.
Sean Kinghorn, attorney-at-law representing Samuels, told The Gleaner that his client had an impeccable case but noted that the matter has been through the halls of the Supreme Court since 2008.
He indicated that any system where people have to wait for more than 12 years to have their rights vindicated was an affront to justice.
The latest development, according to Kinghorn, means that it could take another three years before the case is completed.
“If you are going to be a good lawyer, you have to understand that there is more to law than just what we learn at law school. You have to counsel with clients like Miss Samuels and explain to her that having started the fight, you really have to continue it,” he said.