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Firm wins right to bring in expert witnesses in solar court case

The large installation of solar panels on land near the airport known as The Finger (File photograph)

The Supreme Court has ruled that it would hear expert evidence as part of a $1.3 million legal fight over the construction of the solar farm at the LF Wade International Airport.

Noesis Consulting has claimed it is owed $1,347,386.17 in damages from Saturn Solar Developments Ltd over installation work carried out at the site.

The court has heard the two companies entered into two contracts on May 13, 2019, in connection to the solar project.

The first required Noesis to supply and install a submarine combined power and fibre optic cable from the switchgear at the site to both a vault cable near the helipad in St George’s and a Belco substation at the airport.

The second contract required Noesis to build a 6MW solar farm at the airport’s “finger” with SSD to “support” the project.

But Noesis said they received notice on September 29, 2020 that the interconnect contract was being terminated with a lawyer for SSD citing a “significant” delay.

The company however said it was wrongly terminated and the problems facing the project amounted to a “force majeure” event under the deal’s terms

Noesis subsequently launched legal action against Saturn Solar, while Saturn launched a counterclaim saying in part that Noesis did not carry out the interconnection works “to the standard of care to be expected of a reasonably skilled and competent subcontractor”.

In a hearing held on May 4, counsel for Noesis sought permission to get expert evidence to help prove that it had “exercised the requisite skill and care” in the project.

However SSD argued that Noesis had failed to identify the scope of the proposed expert evidence or any particular expert, expertise or speciality.

The company also said the issues of the case related to the interpretation of the contracts, which meant expert evidence about solar installations was not required and would increase the duration and cost of the trial.

Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden ruled in favour of allowing expert evidence in a recent judgment.

Mr Justice Mussenden said the court would likely need expert evidence on issues such as the “reasonable skill and care” and “standard of duty” for sub contractors.

“I note that Saturn Solar argued that the case is about a breach of contract for the non-payment of liquidated damages and not for stand alone negligence or breaches of extra-contractual standards, thus there is no need for expert opinion,” he said.

“SSD also states that the case is not about industry standards but about the duties imposed by the contracts.

“However SSD has pleaded breaches of the standard and duties of care. In my view, expert evidence will be of assistance to the court in resolving these issues.”

Mr Justice Mussenden granted Noesis leave to adduce expert evidence on fibre optic underground cable instillation and project management, as it pertains to the issues in the case.

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