Domestic landlord and tenant disputes: how to score an own goal

In his recent judgment in the case of Crow v Hollis [2016] SC (Bda) 85 Civ, Chief Justice Kawaley has once again reminded litigants of the need to act in accordance with the overriding objective (i.e. reasonably and proportionately) , when arguing over modest amounts of money.

This was a classic domestic landlord and tenant dispute, in which the landlord was suing the tenant for non-payment of the last month’s rent, and the tenant was suing the landlord for return of his deposit and damages for alleged breaches of the lease agreement.

The facts of the case are pretty mundane, and hardly worth repeating.

The important point is that the value of the claim and counterclaim were just high enough to take the case out of the Magistrates’ Court and into the Supreme Court.

The trial of the case appears to have lasted 5 days (split over 3 separate hearings), and, in the apparent absence of rigorous case management by the Court and the parties, the parties’ legal costs must have dwarfed the substantive value of the case by the time that the Judge came to give his judgment.

In his introduction to his judgment, Chief Justice Kawaley noted that “in hindsight the parties ought to have simply abandoned their respective claims as they raised complicated disputes which could not easily be legally resolved in a cost-effective manner“.

In conclusion, however, having been forced to review the evidence and the parties’ legal submissions, the Judge awarded the Plaintiff the sum of $9,085 on his claim; and the Defendant the sum of $9,436 on his counterclaim (the two awards effectively cancelling each other out). The Judge indicated his strong provisional view that each party should bear their own costs of the litigation, “on the basis that neither party has achieved success in ‘real world’ terms“.

This looks like a case in which both parties managed to score an own goal, with the referee throwing his hands up in the air in despair!


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