DeSilva’s construction firm in legal battle
A legal battle between a construction firm owned by a government minister and his niece and her mother, his ex-sister-in-law will be fought out in the Court of Appeal.
But Island Construction, owned by Zane DeSilva, the current Minister of Tourism and Transport, has been ordered to pay $70,000 into an escrow account pending the result of an appeal.
Island Construction was earlier this year found by an Employment Tribunal to have wrongfully dismissed Barbara Phillips, Mr DeSilva’s sister-in-law, and Rebecca Phillips, her daughter, over allegations of theft and dishonesty.
Supreme Court Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams upheld the tribunal’s ruling on July 29, but the construction firm appealed the decision, and asked for the $70,000 award to be stayed until after the case was heard by the Court of Appeal.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams upheld the application in a judgment dated November 15.
The judge said: “I accept Mark Pettingill’s classification of the $70,000 award as ‘significant’ even for a solvent and financially able litigant such as the appellants.
“I have given careful thought to the merits of the appeal grounds filed, which I consider to be minimal but just short of unarguable. These points must be measured against the respondents’ current financial resources.”
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said Barbara Phillips was unemployed and Rebecca Phillips received a “modest” salary.
The judge added: “While respondents’ fiscal limitations may invoke sympathy for the prolonged non-payment of the award, it also opens them up to my real concern, that they may likely spend the fruits of the award without finding themselves able to reimburse the appellants on the not-so-foreseeable chance that judgment is reversed on appeal.
“For these reasons, I grant the appellant’s application to stay execution of the judgment, on the condition that the judgment sum should be paid in escrow into a client trust account, held by Chancery Legal, within 21 days from the date of this ruling.”
She ordered that, if the appeal was dismissed, the cash should be paid to the Phillips within seven days of the appeal court judgment or by April 30 next year, whichever was sooner.
Island Construction fired the pair on April 27 last year for serious misconduct. The company alleged Rebecca Phillips stole gas and was paid money for hours she had not worked.
Barbara Phillips was claimed to have acted dishonestly. The mother and daughter went to an employment tribunal on the grounds of wrongful dismissal.
The tribunal ruled that they were wrongfully dismissed at a hearing on December 4 last year.
In the Supreme Court, Mr DeSilva and Island Construction argued in an appeal they were deprived of a fair hearing, but their appeal was dismissed.
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