Port of Spain, Trinidad. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today issued an order settling the matter of Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc. v Haresh Narine Sugrim in a dispute valued at nearly US$1 million dollars. The CCJ heard the case on 19 April 2018 and during the hearing the judges urged the parties, before the close of the proceedings, to make every effort to come to an agreement. A mere four weeks later, the Court was informed that both parties had reached an agreement where the Bauxite Company would pay the sum of US$250,000 to Mr. Sugrim. A consent order, which sets down formally what each side has agreed to, was issued by the CCJ today, Monday 28th May 2018.
The appellant, the Bauxite Company of Guyana, had entered into an agreement with Mr. Sugrim to perform dredging works at Aroiama and Kwakwani in the Berbice River to clear those areas of the river of sediment. The agreement provided for the respondent to clear approximately 15,000 cubic yards of sediment from the river. However, while the agreement prescribed a specific method known as ‘barge displacement calibration’ to measure the amount of material that was dredged and removed from the river, it did not state whose responsibility it was to calibrate the barges. Mr. Sugrim subsequently submitted invoices which totalled US$992,123 based on 105,545 cubic yards of sediment being dredged and removed from the river. Both the sum claimed in the invoices, and the amount of sediment that was dredged, were rejected by the Bauxite Company.
The High Court in Guyana ruled in favour of Mr. Sugrim who was granted the amount claimed in the invoices. However, the Court of Appeal, while agreeing with the general approach employed by the High Court in assessing the amount due to Mr. Sugrim, reduced this amount by 20%. Both parties appealed to the CCJ as they were dissatisfied with the ruling of the Court of Appeal.
During the hearing of the matter before the CCJ, members of the Bench repeatedly expressed the view that the nature of this dispute readily lent itself to mediation. The Court observed during the hearing that it was virtually impossible to arrive at a sum with any degree of mathematical certainty. It advised the parties that, should a formal judgment be issued in the case, it would more than likely be met with great disfavour by one side. The Court gave an undertaking to reserve delivery of its judgment for six weeks, from the date of the hearing, to provide the parties with sufficient opportunity to explore mediation.
It was also agreed that each party would pay its own costs in the proceedings before the CCJ, as well as in the proceedings in the courts below. The Court expressed deep appreciation to the parties for what it deemed to be a mature and sensible approach to the resolution of this matter. The Bauxite Company of Guyana was represented by Mr. Edward A. Luckhoo, SC and Mr. Andrew M.F. Pollard, SC. Mr. Sugrim was represented by Mr. Chandrapratesh V. Satram.