Tue | Sep 27, 2022

Dead landowner wins 12-year court fight with Alpart

Published:Tuesday | August 16, 2022 | 12:11 AM
Dr Michalene Lattore, counsel at Alpart: “I do not discuss my company’s business with the public.”
Dr Michalene Lattore, counsel at Alpart: “I do not discuss my company’s business with the public.”

Bauxite-alumina producer JISCO Alpart Jamaica has suffered a blow in its more-than-decade-long legal battle over land in Waltham, Manchester, after the Supreme Court dismissed its claims of trespass and recovery of possession brought against a...

Bauxite-alumina producer JISCO Alpart Jamaica has suffered a blow in its more-than-decade-long legal battle over land in Waltham, Manchester, after the Supreme Court dismissed its claims of trespass and recovery of possession brought against a resident.

Supreme Court Justice Kirk Anderson, in his disposition, ruled that Alpart’s claim of ownership of 16,187.425 square metres and 2,868.251 square metres of land in the parish was unsuccessful after determining that defendant Monica White, who has since died, was the rightful owner.

The matter was pursued by her executor, Horace Gayle.

The court is to determine if damages are to be awarded to White’s estate.

The matter, which was initially brought to court in 2010, was heard over a one-year period beginning July 5, 2021.

In a Gleaner interview on Monday, Karen Scott, one of two attorneys who represented White, said that the evidence on which the defence relied proved too overwhelming for an adverse outcome.

“I believe that the court had no option but to rule in our favour. There was nothing to suggest anything contrary to our client’s claim to rightful ownership,” said Scott.

“The court made its decision, and that’s final. We’re indeed happy,” she added.

Dr Michalene Lattore, counsel at Alpart, declined to comment on the case’s outcome when contacted by The Gleaner.

“I do not discuss my company’s business with the public,” she said, in a terse response.

Alpart contended that it acquired the disputed land in 1956 for residential development and that it enjoyed, from that time to the filing of its claim in 2010, undisputed possession of the land and paid property taxes.

The company also argued that it was common knowledge within the community that it owned the land.

The bauxite company said that that the land was unlawfully entered and occupied by White, her servants, and/or agents without any legal or equitable title or interest.

It also argued that White had failed to deliver up possession despite notice.

However, White maintained that the land was willed to her father and that she became the successor in title following his death.

White’s team argued that Alpart could not have purchased the disputed land from someone who did not possess the title to sell it.

The defence lawyers also argued that Alpart could not show that it purchased the disputed land and was unable to show any document in writing to satisfy Section 4 of the Statute of Frauds, or to show any part performance.

Additionally, the defence argued that Alpart was not in undisturbed possession of the disputed land and noted that even if the company paid property taxes, they were not paid as owners of the land.

Furthermore, it was argued that the disputed land was always in the undisturbed possession of White’s family.

The court determined that there was no evidence to suggest that White’s possession of the land was disturbed or that any action was taken between the time Alpart reportedly completed the purchase of the land in 1968 and “at the very least the 1980s”.

Alpart brought evidence that its superintendent of land, since his employment in 1994, visited the property from time to time and saw no evidence to suggest that its possession was disputed.

However, the court determined that ownership of the land belonged to White on a matter of adverse possession.

Under the Limitations of Actions Act, adverse possession allows a person who is in possession of land to obtain good title if the paper owner fails to assert his own superior title within 12 years after acquiring (private) property.

The court said that White had exercised possession and intention to possess the disputed land from the very least 1968 and 12 years beyond.

It said that the person holding the title, claimant or not, cannot claim possession of the disputed land from 1980 onwards.

The court said that the title having been extinguished, notwithstanding the different acts done by Alpart, could not be revested by mere re-entry on the disputed land.

“That is so, because, from 1968 up until the date of filing this claim, the defendant and members of her family have continued in open and undisputed possession of the disputed land,” the court said.

kimone.francis@gleanerjm.com