“He chose not to participate” | New


A defendant whose petition to have a default judgment overturned by the Supreme Court earlier this month will now have to pay $16 million in damages to an elderly farmer, who was seriously injured in a car accident in 2015.

Rayan Wright, the accused, had not responded to a lawsuit brought by Ansurd Stephens, a 78-year-old farmer, in 2017 after he was hit by a car Wright was driving.

Judge Tania Mott Tulloch-Reid, in her decision against Wright, pointed out that although he was served with the demand, he did not file an acknowledgment of service or take steps to protect himself. She said he only took action when he learned that a final judgment had been made against him in December 2018.

“I am not persuaded by the defendant that this is an appropriate case to set aside the default judgment, although I am of the view that the defendant has a real prospect of successfully defending the case. If I acted otherwise, the prejudice suffered by the plaintiff would, in my opinion, be greater than the prejudice suffered by the defendant,” the judge concluded.

The judge referred to the fact that the plaintiff is now 78 years old and would have to wait about two more years for a trial date. The judge criticized the defendant’s insurer for not having played an active role in the proceedings, while the plaintiff’s lawyer had notified the insurance company that a legal action was being brought against the defendant.

Attorney Jason Jones, who represented the plaintiff, opposed the motion to have the default judgment set aside.

“The rules of the court are very important. Litigants need to make sure they meet the specific deadlines that are in place and they need to act with alacrity,” Jones emphasized.

He said that his client had suffered greatly from the injuries he had suffered, that he was still in pain and that he should be compensated.

“There are far too many cases in court where litigants, especially the elderly, wait for years for their cases to be decided and often the delays are caused by some defendants refusing to respond to claims,” said Jones.

On Dec. 12, 2018, Supreme Court Justice Sonya Wint-Blair awarded Stephens, who has a 19% impairment in his right knee, $2.6 million for future medical expenses. From May 20, 2017 to December 12, 2018, he was awarded $13,680,000 with interest at 3% in general damages for pain and suffering.

Stephens was also awarded special damages of $161,000 with interest at 3% from July 2, 2015 to December 12, 2018 in addition to legal fees assessed at $50,000.

CAUSED BY NEGLIGENCE

According to court documents, Stephens said he was sitting on his bike along the main road from Lacovia to St Elizabeth around 8.30am on July 2, 2015 when Wright lost control of the vehicle he was riding at high speed and that he bumped into him.

He said the defendant was talking on his cell phone while driving and was distracted. The crash, Stephens told the court, was caused by Wright’s negligence.

Stephens suffered serious injuries to his right leg and left rib.

After damages were awarded, Wright moved to have the default judgment set aside because he said he had a defense with a real prospect of success. He maintained that it was Stephens who drove his bicycle into the path of his car.

The defendant denied having received the claim form and claim details. He said he only learned of the claim in June 2019 when his insurer informed him of the judgment and he then filed a request in August 2019 to have it set aside.

Lawyer Suzette Campbell, who represented Wright, asked the judge to find that the documents were not served on her. She said the witness, Mohan Escoffery, who tested he was serving the accused, did not know him beforehand and took no steps to ensure he was serving the right person by asking for proof of identify.

Judge Mott Tulloch-Reid, in her decision that the defendant was served on May 20, 2017, said she observed the two witnesses and considered their manner on the witness stand and their candor in answering questions and found Escoffery’s testimony to be more direct and compelling than that. or the defendant.

FAULT INSURANCE COMPANY

The judge said that the insurance company had been informed of the lawsuits against the defendant and that before that, the defendant had informed the company that he was involved in an accident. The judge said that if the insurance company had kept up to date with the proceedings, they would have seen that a default judgment was entered and would have informed their client. The judge said that waiting for a final judgment to be issued to inform his client meant that the insurer had done nothing during the interim.

“The plaintiff cannot be held to pay for the failures of the insurance company to take action in favor of its insured in the exercise of its rights of subrogation,” the judge said.

“I have considered the fact that this claim stems from a car accident that occurred on July 2, 2015, seven years ago, and I wonder about the availability of witnesses (bystanders, people at the scene at the time of the ‘accident). accidents and doctors) when the trial is to take place,’ the judge said.

Referring to the Constitution, the judge stated that the accused had the right to be heard and that this right was never taken away from him.

“He chose not to participate in the proceedings. Why should I, at this stage, deprive the plaintiff of his judgment when the defendant decided that he did not want to participate and only took action when he knew that a final judgment had been rendered against him ? asked the judge.

The defendant was ordered to pay the plaintiff the costs of $350,000 assessed for the claim.

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