Log In

Reset Password

Judge urges warring neighbours to find common ground

Aerial view showing 17 (left) and 13 Inglewood Lane, Paget (Image from Google Earth)

A court battle between neighbours that is “probably running into the millions” of dollars could be settled by the litigants themselves, the Supreme Court heard.

Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden told the latest hearing over a boundary dispute between the neighbours over the removal of trees and the encroachment of a driveway that it had “room for settlement”.

Mr Justice Mussenden told counsel for either side: “When you look at the costs already spent – going forward, the remedy sought just might be two neighbours meeting at the boundary themselves, and having a discussion.”

Lawyers for defendants Simon and Deirdre Storey and plaintiff Samuel Andrew Banks sparred on Thursday over whether experts could be called in to examine the disputed area of the property at Inglewood Lane in Paget.

Jeffrey Elkinson, representing Mr Banks – the husband of former premier Dame Pamela Gordon – was also accused of “mud slinging” against the Storeys by defence counsel Keith Robinson in an argument over documents demanded by the plaintiffs.

Mr Banks has accused the Storeys of “trespassing or creating a nuisance” on his property in an acrimonious court case in which the two sides failed to agree on a definition of the development that encroaches on his property line.

According to a writ filed last year in the courts, Mr Banks said he discovered in about June 2021 that the Storeys “had come on to his property and removed numerous mature trees and other vegetation, excavated a roadway over a portion of his property, deposited an extensive mulch berm significantly altering the topography, installed ornamental plantings, and carried out other encroaching developments”.

The Storeys have maintained that they were unaware of the exact boundary between the properties.

They also deny removing any trees, maintaining that the vegetation was destroyed in the back-to-back hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo in October 2014.

An injunction against the Storeys trespassing on the property, which the defendants tried to quash at an earlier hearing, was upheld by the courts in September.

In a hearing on Thursday, Mr Elkinson wrangled with Mr Robinson over the definition of the structure said to be encroaching on the Banks property, with the plaintiff calling it part of a patio and the defence calling it a retaining wall.

A discovery summons requesting documents from the Storeys is also being challenged, with Mr Banks requesting details on invoices for the construction – said to have been carried out by Mr Storey personally – as well as all title deeds to the defendants’ property, including other lots in the area, as rights of way and easements were also said to be disputed.

Mr Elkinson said Mr Storey had failed to obtaining Planning permission for the construction and claimed the defendant had a “history” of bypassing Planning.

Mr Robinson called the suggestion “outrageous” and told Mr Justice Mussenden the summons overstepped the regular boundaries for discovery.

He added that some of the documents sought by the plaintiffs were public documents already in their possession – calling the request “a complete waste of time and the court’s energy”.

Mr Robinson said his client was unable to produce designs and drawings requested for the retaining wall because he had built it himself.

Mr Justice Mussenden opted reserved judgment on the challenge to the discovery summons.

Mr Elkinson said that part of the relief being sought in the case was aggravated damages.

Mr Robinson said it would be up to the court to decide whether the retaining wall would be taken down or allowed to remain in place.

But he added that since the wall was holding up part of the Banks property, removing it would likely end with both sides back in court over another nuisance claim.

He added that aggravated damages claims were “virtually unheard of” in such cases.

Mr Justice Mussenden also heard arguments for the introduction of expert witnesses on horticulture and civil engineering to inspect the property.

Mr Elkinson said his client had reservations about who would be appointed and when they would be allowed on to his property.

Mr Justice Mussenden granted an order for experts to be called in, with the parties to reach an agreement through a consent order.

He told both sides that he had contemplated going to the property to look at it in person.

“We can cross that bridge when we come to it,” Mr Justice Mussenden added.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.