17 Aug 2020

Samoa lawyer calls for changes after 22 year delay in decision

2:58 pm on 17 August 2020

The lawyer for one of the companies involved in a long delayed court decision that was ruled 'unsafe' last week by Samoa's Court of Appeal, says it's clear changes are needed.

gavel and law book

Photo: 123 RF

The Court of Appeal set aside a decision made last August by the former Chief Justice, Patu Tiava'asu'e Falefatu Sapolu, on a case he had heard in 1997.

There has been no explanation for the delay, which is understood to be one of number of old cases that Patu finally resolved last year.

The Court of Appeal, in its ruling, said there was a need for the judiciary to have a protocol on the timeliness of decisions.

Lawyer Ruby Drake agreed change was needed.

"We have a new Chief Justice and we are hoping that the judges will take into consideration what the Court of Appeal has said, that there should be some regulations or rules to guide the judges on the issuing or their reserve decisions."

Drake represented Vaivaimuli Corporation which had sued insurance company, NPI, in 1997 over its refusal to pay out after damage caused by Cyclone Ofa in 1990.

Patu reserved his decision and despite regular approaches from Drake and the lawyer for NPI, John Upton, it didn't eventuate until August 2019 - 22 years after the hearing.

On that occasion the judge sided with Vaivaimuli, awarding it nearly $US91,000 dollars.

But the Court of Appeal said this was unsafe and could not stand.

It recommended the government meet court costs for both parties.