Founder of Mae’s school in court battle to save secondary wing from seizure

The founder and administrator of Mae’s School, Mayfield French-Rodrigues  has moved to the High Court to stop  attempts to evict her from a property which houses the secondary wing of her school after an apparent incomplete purchasing arrangement between herself  and attorney at law Nigel Hughes.

Such a move, she said will ruin her and will result in the displacement of 300 secondary school students, some of whom are preparing to write CSEC Examinations later this year.

The two had entered into a purchasing agreement in relation to E 1/2 of Lot 29 Third Avenue, Subryanville, Georgetown, in 2006 for $20M, of which $12M was paid in installments and $8M left outstanding. French-Rodrigues was forced to move to the court after being recently informed that the property is the subject of a foreclosure order in favour of Hand in Hand Mutual Life Assurance Company Limited.

In court papers, filed by attorney Nicola Pierre on January 17 and seen by this newspaper, French-Rodrigues, represented by her duly-constituted attorney Yvonne Maria French, was listed as the plaintiff, while Hughes, Hand in Hand Mutual Life Assurance Company Limited, the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the First Marshal of the Supreme Court are named as the defendants.

The matter was heard in chambers by Justice Rishi Persaud on January 20 and he granted an injunction restraining the defendants or their servants or agents from “interrupting, obstructing or impeding the Plaintiff’s peaceful occupation and enjoyment of the property” until the hearing and determination of a summons returnable on January 29.

Justice Persaud also granted an injunction restraining the Registrar and the Marshal from taking in execution and/or custody, the property and or offering it for sale at execution until the hearing and determination of the matter.

French-Rodrigues, in her endorsement of claim, asked for an order against Hughes for specific performance of the contract for sale and purchase of the property executed on February 24, 2006 entered into between her and Hughes as the vendor. She also sought an order authorising and directing the Registrar of Deeds to convey and pass the transport of the property to her.

She is also seeking damages in excess of $20M against Hughes for breach of contract along with such consequential accounts, inquiries and directions as to the payment of purchase money, interest, damages and cost otherwise as the case may require.

In addition to also seeking injunctions to allow her peaceful occupation and enjoyment of the property and to stop the Supreme Court from taking the property into execution and or custody and or offering it for sale, she is also asking for an order setting aside the levy carried out on October 8, 2012 by Marshall Crawford on behalf of Hand in Hand, as being null, void and of no effect.

French-Rodrigues is also seeking an order setting aside any and all subsequent advertisements and notices of Sale at Execution and any or all subsequent purported sales at execution in reliance on the purported levy.

Declarations that the plaintiff is the purchaser for the value of the property without notice of any interest of Hand in Hand and that the property is not liable to be taken in execution to satisfy the judgment granted in persona against Hughes in favour of Hand in Hand on June 19, 2012, are also being sought along with another order that Hand in Hand be stopped from denying the plaintiff’s interest in the property and the plaintiff’s entitlement to a conveyance, possession and ownership thereof.

Yvonne Maria French, in an ex parte application for interim injunction on behalf of French-Rodrigues, said that the plaintiff has been in possession of the property since 2006 and has been the sole user and controller since them. It was stated that the conveyance of the property began in 2006, while instructions to advertise and the affidavits of the vendor and purchaser were filed on January 9, 2007.

The conveyance, it was stated, was advertised in the Official Gazette of February 17, 2007. “No opposition was ever filed to the conveyance whether by the second named defendant (Hand in Hand) or anyone else,” the ex parte application stated. It added that while the conveyance was advertised and was never opposed, it has never been completed.

It was explained that when French-Rodrigues took possession of the property in 2006, it comprised of a dilapidated two-storey residential dwelling of less than 200 square feet. That dilapidated dwelling, the documents said, was demolished by the plaintiff, who is the owner of two adjoining lots – E ½ Lot 29 Third Avenue, namely Lots 9 and 19 Third Avenue by Transports 274 of March 25, 1997 and 1093 of July 30, 1998.

The court documents said that the plaintiff has built on the three lots, a three-storey concrete and timber semi-detached building(s) valued $390, 000, 000. The building on the lot in contention comprises 12, 438 square feet and is attached to the building at Lot 19 Third Avenue and forms part of a single premises which is occupied by Mae’s Primary and Secondary Schools. The documents explained that the portion of the building which stands on the property in contention is occupied by all of the form rooms of Mae’s Secondary School, the canteen and auditorium, offices, washrooms and other administrative and learning spaces.

French said that French-Rodrigues informed her that she received a telephone call from Hughes informing her that the property in contention was the subject of a foreclosure order in favour of Hand in Hand. At the time, she received this call she was overseas.

“The Plaintiff caused enquiries to be made at the Supreme Court about the controversy and proceedings regarding E ½ Lot 29 Third Avenue, Subryanville and was given copies of a judgment, Writ of Execution, Instructions to Levy, Act of Levy, Advertisement of Sale concerning the said property,” the documents said, adding that the plaintiff was never aware of the proceeding brought by Hand in Hand against Hughes, granting them leave to the proceed in execution against the property.

It was further stated that the plaintiff has now been informed that this execution order is to satisfy a debt of $26, 601, 936 comprising capital in the sum of $8, 388, 714 and interest in the approximate sum of $18, 213, 222.

In pursuance of that judgment, it was stated, a levy was made on October 12, 2013 and one occupied two-storey building measuring 15x 30 with three bedrooms and a verandah was taken in execution by the Marshals of the Supreme Court.  The documents went on to state that subsequently the marshals said that pursuant to that purported Act of Levy, the property at E ½ Lot 29 (which is said to belong to Hughes) was exposed for sale at Execution on December 10, 2013 and was purportedly sold at auction to Stanford Solomon, who bid the sum of $26, 001, 000 but no deposit had been paid.

“I am advised by the Plaintiff’s attorney attorney-at-law Nicola Pierre and verily believe that the East ½ of Lot 29 never having been taken in execution or legal custody of the Marshal cannot (could not) have been lawfully sold at execution,” French said, adding that the plaintiff believes that there is an evident and obvious danger of the property being taken into execution and sold at execution if the defendants are not restrained from doing so.

The documents stated too that French-Rodrigues faces ruin if her investment in the property is lost to a sale of execution and she cannot conceive how the building she has constructed along and across the property in contention and the adjoining lots 19 and 9 could be separated if E ½ of Lot 29 is taken in execution.

“The plaintiff has no premises in which to house Mae’s Secondary except the building at East ½ of Lot 29 Third Avenue, which was built by the Plaintiff specifically for that purpose and is used specifically for that purpose,” it was stated. In addition, the documents said that 300 secondary school students (forms one to five), 59 of whom are preparing for their CSEC Examinations in April and May, are occupying the building. “These students would face irreparable damage if evicted from their school,” French said in the application.

Attached to the court proceedings which were filed are the agreement of sale and photographs of the property, among other documents.

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