OPPOSITION People's National Party-linked businessman, Kenneth 'Skeng Don' Black is not giving up the nearly $200 million he was awarded before a stay of execution, in his running court battle with the state-run Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ).
Black's company, Black Brothers Ltd last week filed an appeal against a default judgment that was set aside by the Supreme Court after he was awarded the $145 million plus interest representing money owed for the firm's construction of close to 1,200 housing solutions at Whitehall Estate in Westmoreland.
Lead counsel for Black Brothers, Gayle Nelson told the Sunday Observer on Friday that he was prepared to go all the way in defence of his client.
"They (HAJ) sought and got a stay of execution in order to file their defence out of time," Nelson said. "However, we are against this and we have already filed an appeal in the Court of Appeal."
After failing to get an out-of-court settlement, Black Brothers sued the Housing Agency — formerly the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) — saying it owed him for construction of the Whitehall Estates development. When the HAJ failed to mount a defence in time, the court made a default judgment in favour of Black last October.
But on February 11, 2011, the HAJ prevailed in its bid to get a stay of execution of the award from Supreme Court judge Lennox Campbell.
HAJ is contending that it has documents to show that the contract with Black Brothers was with the Whitehall Estates Provident Society for the development which was done during the latter part of the life of the previous PNP administration.
Senior counsel for HAJ, Patrick Foster of Nunes, Scholefield, Deleon and Company, hailed Justice Campbell's ruling as fair and vowed to get the award against his client set aside entirely.
"We are pleased with the court's decision as it gives us an opportunity to have the issues in dispute between the parties dealt with in the trial court as it should have been in the first place," said Foster who, along with Tavia Dunn, appear for the HAJ in the matter.
Justice Campbell, in setting aside the default judgment and allowing HAJ to file a defence, said: "I accept that in the circumstances, the delay was not inordinate and a good explanation for filing a defence has been tendered. I find that the first defendant (HAJ) has a real prospect of successfully maintaining his assertion that it was not party to any agreement with the claimant with respect of the execution of the Whitehall development.
"The first defendant has a case that carries a real conviction that its involvement in Whitehall was in keeping with its obligations under the loan agreement with the society."
The matter is now set for trial in the Supreme Court over three days starting January 16, 2012, following a case management conference on July 18 and a pre-trial review on November 2, 2011.
The Whitehall project near the swanky tourist town of Negril was one of several undertaken by Black Brothers in recent years, under the then government's Operation Pride programme, many of which the NHDC financed and managed.
Whitehall was once a popular squatter settlement which was regularised by housing authorities and now represents a rapidly developing community.
It emerged in court that the NHDC, now HAJ, on March 13, 2002 loaned the Whitehall Estates Provident Society $528,883,126.18 to complete the development of 1,178 low-income lots at Whitehall.
The court was also told that the Provident Society opted for Black Brothers as its contractors of choice to complete the development.
Meanwhile, Black, in a rare interview with the Sunday Observer last October, cited victimisation as the main reason for the present administration's hesitance in paying him for work done.
"It's a personal thing against me. It's some sort of victimisation," Black said then.
However, HAJ managing director, Joseph Shoucair denied the victimisation claim and countered: "There is a claim by Black Brothers and we had some difficulties with the claim. We have made the appropriate recommendation as to how it should be dealt with."