Jamaican Queen’s Counsel Vincent Nelson has sued the Attorney General for $10 million in unpaid legal fees.
Nelson was retained to represent the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) in a series of tax appeals against energy company bpTT.
Justice Ricky Rahim on Friday in the San Fernando High Court dismissed an application by the AG to strike out Nelson’s lawsuit.
Delivering a 19-page preliminary decision, Justice Rahim ruled that the AG’s office failed to prove that Nelson had no basis for bringing the claim and that it was an abuse of process.
In support of its application to dismiss Nelson’s lawsuit, the State argued that the Legal Profession Act only gave attorneys the power to sue their clients for unpaid fees where the fees invoiced were independently assessed by a High Court Master or Registrar.
Nelson’s bill was not assessed as it fell under a £1.5 million retainer contract agreed between him and the AG’s office under the tenure of former AG Anand Ramlogan in November 2014.
In his decision, Rahim ruled that the introduction of the Civil Proceedings Rules of 1998 (CPR) made the requirements under the LPA unnecessary as the jurisdiction to assess legal costs was no with judges.
“In that context, slavish adherence to the section in the context of the changes in the rules of court is wholly inappropriate as it is open to this court to make a suitable order for costs by way of assessment should objection be taken by the client to the quantum of costs,” Rahim said.
The judge said the issues raised in Nelson’s lawsuit should go to trial. The State has argued that Nelson breached his retainer contract. Additional time was given for the State to file its defence.
The State is now contending that Nelson did not honour the retainer agreement as the tax appeals were settled with bpTT for $2 billion in May 2015 and did not go to trial.
Nelson was represented by Roger Kawalsingh, while Zelica Haynes-Soo Hon represented the AG’s office.