A senior Barbadian LIAT pilot today gave the Antigua and Barbuda Court of Appeal formal notice of his intention to challenge a recent High Court decision to block a class action suit against his employer.
Acting on behalf of nine other disgruntled LIAT pilots, Captain Neil Cave filed the notice of an application for leave to appeal the August 11, 2020 decision of a High Court Judge who had blocked the suit lodged by Captain Cave in a ruling that some lawyers warn could have serious implications for anyone flying on the regional airline.
On the same day the case was scheduled to start, the judge had agreed with LIAT that the trial could not proceed because the new Antigua and Barbuda Companies Amendment Act 2020, prevents absolutely any form of legal action being taken against LIAT.
In the court document filed today, it was noted that the judge had deemed the trial automatically stayed by virtue of a petition for a rehabilitation order lodged by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
But the pilots have submitted six grounds on which they are relying to support their appeal against the High Court decision.
One ground suggests that the judge misdirected herself and committed an error of law in concluding that the combined effect of the automatic stay granted to LIAT on July 20, 2020 and the provision of section 564 (1) (a) of the Companies (Amendment) Act prevents the High Court trial from going ahead.
Another ground contends that the judge again misdirected herself and committed an error of law in determining that the claimants fall under the ambit of “creditors” for the purpose of the same Act.
The pilots are also arguing that the judge’s decision to stop the trial has caused severe prejudice to the applicants and intended appellants considering the matter to be determined involves significant sums of money for the pilots and has been in the court system for more than five years. The pilots are suing LIAT for deducting more than EC$5 million from their salaries without their authorisation and illegally lodging it in CLICO International Life as pension.
The ten pilots have also informed the Court of Appeal that the judge’s recent ruling has denied them access to the High Court in a civil matter for a fair hearing within a reasonable time as provided for in section 88 of the Antigua and Barbuda Constitution.
Another ground is that the leave of the court to appeal the judge’s decision is required pursuant to the Court Procedure Rules.
The sixth ground argues that the pilots have a good prospect of success in their appeal.
Before blocking the case, the High Court was expected to determine the legality of LIAT’s management decision to lodge about EC$5 million in CLICO International Life Insurance as pension for the pilots.
“Our contention certainly is that pension funds were lodged illegally into a CLICO scheme by LIAT management. No authorization was given to deduct our salaries and place these monies, approximately EC$5 million into CLICO,” the Barbadian pilot stated.
“We contend that the placement of these funds into CLICO under the guise of a pension where a trust deed or plan rules have never existed, constitute a criminal offence under Section C 34 of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code,” the commercial flyer had told Barbados TODAY.
The senior pilot noted that aviation carries with it certain inherent risks and unforeseen circumstances that arise from time to time.
He further expressed fears about the implications considering that LIAT operates through multiple territories including Barbados.
“I am extremely concerned that for someone who has respect for the rule of law, that citizens of these countries have no legal recourse as a result of the new Antigua legislation.”
Earlier, Cave had raised a question within the context of this new law.
“What happens, God forbid, should a person or persons suffer an injury as a result of an accident while this stay exists. As a result of this new law, they can’t even file a claim. The bottom-line is that my lawyer has advised that the interpretation raises serious legal questions, including potential constitutional issues,” he stated.