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Jagdeo appeals Full Court ruling in $20M libel case

VICE-President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, has filed a notice for special leave at the Court of Appeal, to challenge the Full Court’s decision to uphold the ruling made by High Court Judge, Sandra Kurtzious, that former Minister of Communities, Annette Ferguson, be awarded a $20 million default judgment.

On May 19, Chief Justice Roxane George and Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry, were unable to reach a unanimous decision, which means that the judgment of Justice Kurtzious will remain in effect.

The Chief Justice ruled that the default judgement of Justice Kurtzious should not be vacated, while Justice Sewnarine-Beharry ruled that it should be vacated.

Among other things, Jagdeo through his attorney, Devindra Kissoon, is seeking to appeal the court’s refusal to consider and grant an application to have the matter remitted to fresh judges in the Full Court.

He is contending that the CJ and Justice Sewnarine-Beharry erred in law by failing to issue directions, recall their divided judgment, and reassign the matter to a bench of the Full Court consisting of an odd number of judges, in light of the dissenting nature of the judgment which has resulted in an automatic reversion to Justice Kurtzious’s decision.

On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, Justice Kurtzious affirmed her awarding of the default libel judgement against Dr. Jagdeo. The judge, at the time, was ruling on an application filed by Dr. Jagdeo to set aside the default judgement.

The judge said that Dr. Jagdeo presented no evidence to satisfy the court as to why his application should be granted. She then recanted the $20 million previously granted, and was expected to assess a new quantum of damages with the parties involved on July 28, 2021. However, she later decided to stick with the default judgement.

Ferguson and her team of attorneys made the move to apply for a default judgement after Dr. Jagdeo failed to file a defence within the prescribed time outlined in the civil procedure rules (CPR).

In addition to the $20 million default judgement, Ferguson was also awarded costs in the sum of $75,000.

Ferguson filed the lawsuit following the publication of a Guyana Times article in December 2019. The newspaper was also sued and that matter is still before the High Court.