The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Friday morning dismissed the appeal in Guyana Sugar Corporation v Tulsieram Dukhi, though it increased the Court of Appeal award of damages for personal injuries to G$5,743,000.00 in allowing the cross appeal in part.
This appeal arose out of a road traffic accident which occurred nineteen years ago (1997) on the Ogle Airstrip Road, East Coast Demerara, Guyana. Tulsieram Dukhi (Dukhi) was standing with his bicycle on the road when he was struck by a pick-up truck belonging to the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (Guysuco), which was being driven by Guysuco’s employee, Michael Thakoordin. Dukhi suffered fractures to his left leg and was hospitalised on three occasions for treatment and surgical procedures and suffered from permanent incapacity and loss of earning capacity.
In 1998 Dukhi brought an action in the High Court and claimed special damages in the amount of G$2,794,000.00, general damages and interest, while Guysuco claimed that it was Dukhi who negligently rode his bicycle into the path of the pick-up truck and caused the accident. Seven years later (December 2005-january 2006) the case was heard. More than three years went by until, in 2009, the trial judge awarded G$850,000.00 in damages along with costs and interest, but failed to give reasons for her decision and subsequently went into retirement.
Dukhi appealed this award to the Court of Appeal, arguing that it was wholly inadequate and inordinately low and that the trial judge failed to take into account that the evidence in support of the alleged special damages was uncontradicted and unchallenged. There was no cross appeal, but Guysuco argued that the absence of written reasons from the trial judge precluded appellate review of her reward. The appeal was heard between June and November 2014. In January 2015, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, setting aside the trial judge’s award and increasing the quantum of damages to G$5,446,000.00.
Guysuco appealed to the CCJ, complaining that the Court of Appeal erred in setting aside the trial judge’s award and re-assessing the damages without written reasons from the trial judge. Dukhi cross appealed on the quantum of damages.
The CCJ stressed the importance of the duty of trial judges to provide written reasons for their decisions but held that given the circumstances of the case the Court of Appeal were correct in allowing the appeal and re-assessing the award of damages. The CCJ merely adjusted the award for obvious errors in their calculation, the adjustments increasing the award to G$5,743,000.00.