Court of Appeal settles the law on pre-judgment interest.
The Court of Appeal in Steadroy Matthews v Garna O’neal held that the Court has jurisdiction to award pre-judgment interest. In doing so the Court reaffirms the decision of Andrey Adamovsky et al v Andriy Malitskiy et al and declares Alphonso v Ramnath good law.
In Steadroy Matthews v Garna O’neal , this Court considered whether a court in the BVI has jurisdiction to award pre-judgment interest on general damages and thus whether the the High Court judge was entitled to award pre-judgment interest or if such a decision was an error in law.
The Court held that having regard to Alphonso v Ramnath, it did not specifically peg its decision on the judgment in Jefford v Gee, an English case which was challenged on the fact that England had specific legislation providing for prejudgment interest and the BVI did not. The Court stated that, in Alphonso v Ramnath it made a pronouncement which has since been followed by courts throughout the Eastern Caribbean.
Furthermore, the Court held that section 3 (1) of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1934 (the UK Act) is applicable in the BVI by virtue of section 7 of the West Indies Associated States Supreme Court (Virgin Islands) Act, which provides that: “The High Court shall have and exercise within the Territory all such jurisdiction (save and except the jurisdiction in Admiralty) and the same powers and authorities incidental to such jurisdiction as on the first day of January, 1940 was vested in the High Court of Justice in England.”
The Court noted that the judgment in Alphonso v Ramnath, has not been overruled by any higher court but instead, has been reinforced by the judgment of the Privy Council in another BVI appeal in the case of Creque v Penn. The Court illustrated that in that case, the Privy Council held that: “They are satisfied that the court had jurisdiction to award pre-judgment…”.
Alphonso v Ramnath is now settled law in the Territory of the Virgin Islands on the issue of pre-judgment interest on damages, and that its authority is buttressed by the judgment of this Court in Adamovsky v Malitskiy, in which this Court stated “It cannot be disputed that a party wrongfully deprived by another of money to which the first party is entitled ought to be compensated for his loss, not just by an award to him of the sum of money to which he was entitled, but so too by an award of the time value of the money from the date of its appropriation to the date on which it is ordered to be paid to him. This latter award is what is referred to as an award of pre-judgment interest”.
From Steadroy Matthews v Garna O’Neal, an issue of contention is now settled, in that even where states do not specifically provide for prejudgment interest by statute, the Court has the discretion to award interest on damages to a claimant from the date of the loss to the date of judgment.