National Stadium Project (Grenada) Corporation v NH International (Caribbean) Limited

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National Stadium Project (Grenada) Corporation v NH International (Caribbean) Limited - the Privy Council finds that Court of Appeal erred in deciding appeal without hearing on merits.

Last month the Privy Council handed down Judgment in an appeal from the Court of Appeal of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (in which Blake Morgan appeared as agent for the Appellant) in which the primary question was whether the Court had erred in deciding the original appeal without a hearing on the merits.

The Appellant, a development company set up to manage the construction of the National Stadium and Sporting Complex of Granada, appealed the decision of Rajkumar J to grant a declaration that frozen funds be held on trust for the Respondent, a construction company which had entered into a construction agreement for a significant part of the development. The Appellant also applied for Judgment on its counterclaim for a declaration that the money belonged to them.

The Respondent issued a Notice to Dismiss the appeal contending that the Appellant had failed to explain in its pleadings the nature of its claimed interest in the money. The Court of Appeal allowed the application to dismiss, deciding that it could not allow the appeal to proceed to a full hearing because the Appellant had failed to state the nature of its interest in the funds and further, that the only practical effect of the appeal would be in relation to costs. The Appellant appealed to the Privy Council.

The Privy Council (Lords Neuberger, Mance, Clarke, Carnwath and Toulson) allowed the appeal, finding that the Court of Appeal had erred in its decision to allow the Respondent's Notice to Dismiss and reiterating the principle that the power to strike out statements of case is "reserved for clear cases where the appeal is in effect unarguable".

Giving the Judgment of the Board, Lord Carnwath said "a court should be particularly careful not to shut out an apparently serious appeal unless it can be satisfied, without unduly detailed inquiry, that it is not realistically arguable. Furthermore, even if it is clear that the dispute has become one wholly or mainly about costs, it remains a competent appeal and the court must exercise a discretion how to deal with it". Further, "it will rarely be appropriate to strike out the appeal where the deficiency can be corrected by amendment, at least if the amendment raises no new issue of fact and if any prejudice to the other parties can be met by an appropriate order for costs".

It is expected that the substantive appeal will now proceed to a full hearing in the Court of Appeal.