Barbados Free Press has yet to write about the Coroner’s verdict in the Arch Cot cave-in deaths because we are waiting to read the entire verdict as is being published in installments in The Barbados Advocate.
In this day and age it is inexcusable that the Coroner herself hasn’t published her complete verdict online, but that’s Buhbadus and doan say it’s not so!
From the start BFP covered the deaths of the Codrington family extensively and it is probably not an exaggeration to say that Barbados would still be waiting for an inquest without BFP, the Codrington family and the other voices who steadily demanded an inquest until the government finally gave in.
Even after the inquest belatedly started, the coroner had to be dragged kicking and screaming into hearing evidence from Professor Hans Machel, a specialist in earth and atmospheric science at the University of Alberta in Canada, who conducted an independent study of the cave after the apartment collapsed.
Although BFP will wait to read the full verdict before commenting in detail, some of what we’ve read in the papers shows that the Barbados news media still has a great reluctance to name names. The Barbados elites are well-protected by the local press. Of course, we at BFP have no reluctance to name the names.
Justice in Barbados: A decades-long process that often never ends
The Codrington family lawyer, David Comissiong, made statements shortly after the verdict that the family would be pursuing legal action in the Barbados courts…
“Based on all of the evidence that was revealed over the past year of this inquest, we feel that we need to take this matter further. We think that these deaths could have been avoided. We think that there are four possible cases of negligence. So we would be exploring all four of those possible cases,”
David Comissiong to the Barbados Advocate
22 Years and counting down
We wonder if the remaining family members really know what they are in for. Barbados is a country where a simple condominium dispute or a pedestrian accident can remain before the courts for more than twenty years with no resolution. Ours is a country where court files and government records appear and reappear for the convenience of the elites and to deny evidence to ordinary folks.
Barbados has a system where there are no court reporters in the civil courts. How does anyone remember or know what really happened in the course of a few hours in court with no records being kept? You may well ask that question… not that you’ll receive a satisfactory answer.
Just last week our Barbados Court of Appeal issued a decision in the 1993 road accident case of Edward Roach. That’s almost 19 years after Mr. Roach was injured, and he still hasn’t been paid a dollar.
What happened at Arch Cot is far more complex than a road accident – by many orders of magnitude. Unfortunately the Barbados Courts will be unable to deliver justice to the Codringtons in under two decades.
Our guess of the time it will take the Barbados courts to reach a decision in the Arch Cot Disaster case: 22 years at minimum.
Here is a recent example of Bajan justice, courtesy of Barbados Today…
Still liable despite different decision
Barbados’ Court of Appeal has re-allocated the liability of a substantial monetary award made to a pedestrian injured in a road accident more than 18 years ago. But in the historic decision, made late last month by the highest court in the land, those found responsible will still jointly have to pay the affected individual close to a quarter of a million dollars in damages.
The court, in reaching its judgment, was also forced to go the uncommon route of amending a decision of a trial judge in such matters.
On November 23, 1993 Edward Roach was struck in a collision involving vehicles driven by Nigel Ward, who was driving along Brighton Main Road in the direction of Black Rock Main Road, St. Michael, and Milton Lowe, operator of the other automobile, which was traveling along Farm Road leading onto Brighton Main Road.
The trial judge found that both drivers were liable and apportioned 70 per cent liability to Ward and 30 to Lowe. That, however, has now been changed to 40 per cent to Ward and 60 per cent to Lowe, after Ward appealed the decision.
Court documents outlining the decision noted that in his several grounds of appeal, Ward, represented by attorneys Larry Smith and Ajamu Boardi, argued that the trial judge erred in law and/or in fact that he was speeding and thereby was responsible for the accident and that Lowe “in exiting from the minor road was solely responsible for the accident”. Lowe in turn then filed a respondent’s notice through his lawyer Bryan Weekes, submitting that “the trial judge erred in not finding Ward 100 per cent liable as there is no evidence of liability on Lowe’s part”.
The Court of Appeal panel in reaching its decision referred to several previous cases, including one in which immediate past Chief Justice Sir David Simmons gave guidance on how an appellate court should treat findings of a trial judge on questions of fact and damages.
“We are aware of any case in which the percentage of blame attributed to the main road drive, in the absence of negligently overtaking other traffic on the main road, was in excess of that attributed to the minor road driver in circumstances such as those in the instant case,” the Court of Appeal judges stated.
“To attribute the greater blame to the driver on the main road, as the judge did, would be to ignore the rules of the road and the authorities and cases that deal with the respective liability of drivers at junctions.¬†
“Even if the minor road driver was stationary on the major road he was stationary there not in the context of having parked there but in the context of having emerged from the minor road without first ascertaining or ensuring that it was safe so to do and that there was adequate clearance from oncoming traffic. It follows that we do not agree with the judge’s apportionment of blame,” the panel added.
The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge “erred in principle by failing to draw the correct inferences from the primary facts and to adequately take into account the legal obligations of the driver emerging from a minor road onto a main road”.
“The apportionment which the judge made was based on an error of law which it is the duty of this court to correct. The apportionment should be in keeping with authority; the main driver, even if speeding and driving carelessly, is generally held about one quarter or one third to blame. The minor driver is entitled to come onto the main road only when he can safely clear traffic on that road; he is certainly not entitled to come out onto almost half of the main road and stop there,” it stated.
While Ward and Lowe have had their monetary responsibilities changed, they will still have to pay Roach more than $182,232 plus interest from August 8, 2003.