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In the recent Court of Appeal decision of Steadroy Matthews -v- Garna O’Neal, BVIHCVAP 2015/0019 (“Steadroy Matthews”) the Court upheld an award of pre-judgment interest on general damages in a ruling which offered much needed clarity on the power of the Court to grant such relief.
The uncertainty which befell this area was not least as a result of the 2009 decision of Bannister J in Ocean Conversion (BVI) Limited (“Ocean Conversion”), where the Learned Judge departed from the 1997 Court of Appeal decision of Alphonso -v- Ramnath and held instead that the BVI Court had no power to award pre-judgment interest absent a BVI statute directly conferring that jurisdiction.
The Appellant in Steadroy Matthews relied on Ocean Conversion in support of the assertion that the master erred in awarding pre-judgment interest on damages. The Court of Appeal rejected that submission and ruled in favour of the Respondent, establishing firmly that a BVI court does have the jurisdiction to make awards of pre-judgment interest on the following bases:
This is now welcome clarity that courts in the BVI do possess the jurisdiction to award pre-judgment interest, and based on the Court’s ruling in Adamovsky, it is clear that the Court is willing to adopt a commercially sensible approach which incorporates compensation for the time value of money wrongfully withheld.
Alecia Johns appeared for the Respondent before the Court of Appeal in the Steadroy Matthews case.
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Case Alert: The Court of Appeal Affirms the Jurisdiction of the BVI court to Award Pre-Judgment Interest