NO financial burden has been placed on local gymnast Thema Williams to pay any cost incurred by four former executive members of the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) following the completion of a multi-million dollar lawsuit that was brought against them.
Instead, Justice Frank Seepersad on Monday ordered that the former members bear their own cost in spite of having the claim against them dismissed last week.
This was so giving that it was because of their own “ill-advised and unfair replacement” of Williams with Canadian-born alternate Marisa Dick to represent this country in the 2016 Rio Olympics, that resulted in her claim against the TTGF succeeding at trial.
Williams had been seeking close to $11 million in compensation from the TTGF as well as its former members David Marquez, Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and his wife Donna Lue Shue.
But last Monday, the gymnast was awarded just $200,000 after she claimed victory against the TTGF. The action against Marquez, Wattley, and the Lue Shue’s was dismissed by the judge since the court could not find any “conspiracy” on their part in making the decision to have Williams replaced.
It was also dismissed on the basis that even though it was undeniable that they had made the decision without proper consultation with Williams coach John Geddert, they were ultimately acting on behalf of the Federation.
Following that ruling, attorneys for the four made an application asking the court to order that Williams be made to pay their legal cost since her claim against them had been dismissed.
However, in delivering his ruling on the issue yesterday, Justice Seepersad said while it is the general rule that the unsuccessful party is made to bear the cost of the successful one, he believed the court had the authority to depart from this rule and exercise its discretion.
“The presence of these defendants was critical, and it was reasonable for the claimant to have joined them as parties as their evidence was necessary for the resolution of the issues. If they were not parties, they may not have been called as witnesses and the court would have been deprived of evidence which was ultimately material.
“The Court addressed its mind to the need for the presence of good reason if it elects not to make a costs order and found that such good reason was manifest on the factual matrix before it.
“The approach adopted by the Claimant was sensible and necessary. The information obtained from the 2nd to 5th defendants due to their mandated participation at the trial was relevant. The claimant and the public deserved to have clarity as to the sequence of events which catalysed a decision that materially affected the Claimant’s life and marred this nation’s 2016 Olympic experience. The unmasking of the inaccurate narrative proffered by the 1st Defendant unfolded when the Court analysed the evidence of these Defendants,” said Justice Seepersad.
"The 2nd to 5th defendants are rather fortunate that they were shielded from personal liability primarily because they acted in their capacity as bona fide members of the 1st defendant. However, their conduct was unacceptable and should be accompanied by a sense of shame," the judge said.