Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Transport Authority ordered to pay $1.5 million for failing to return vehicle documents to bus owner

Published:Monday | November 20, 2023 | 3:31 PM
Ellis filed a claim in January 2016 seeking damages against the authority.

The Transport Authority of Jamaica has been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay $1.5 million for breaching the constitutional rights of a motor vehicle owner who to date has not received the documents for her vehicle which was seized in January 2015.

Justice Sabdria Wong-Small made the award on November 3 when she handed down judgment in favour of Claudette Ellis.

Ellis filed a claim in January 2016 seeking damages against the authority.

She contended that members of the transport authority unlawfully, maliciously and without reasonable and/or probable cause seized the documents.

Despite numerous requests, she said the documents have not been returned and she was unable to operate her motor vehicle to earn an income.

In its defence, the authority stated that it had no knowledge or record of any documents or record of the seized documents.

The agency also denied admitting that any member of its staff said that the documents were misplaced.

The claimant's driver had reported that he was stopped on Spanish Town Road in Kingston by a transport inspector and was informed that the conductor was not properly dressed.

The documents for the vehicle were requested and he handed them over.

He left the conductor at the scene and went to drop off the passengers in the bus park.

He later saw the conductor at the bus park and was informed that he should collect the documents from one of the inspectors.

The driver said when he returned to the scene the inspectors had left.

He said the next day he saw a member of the team who told him the documents were handed in at the office and he informed Ellis.

“In the circumstances of this case, I find that the claimant is entitled to an award of compensation vindicating her infringed constitutional right,” Justice Wong-Small said.

The judge found that an award under the head of vindicatory damages was sufficient to compensate Ellis for the deprivation of her motor vehicle document.

The judge said the claimant did not prove her case in detinue.

This is when a claimant is contending that a defendant is wrongfully in possession of his or her personal property.

Costs were awarded in favour of the claimant.

Attorney-at-law Travis Ebanks, instructed by Kinghorn & Kinghorn, represented the claimant.

The defendant was represented by attorney-at-law Kimberly Reynolds-McDermott, instructed by McDermott Reynolds McDermott, and she argued that the claimant had failed to satisfy the elements necessary to establish the tort of detinue.

- Barbara Gayle

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