A High Court judge has struck out a claim against the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the Attorney General in a nuisance case brought by the owner of Viola’s Place hotel in Lowlands, Tobago.
The owners of the hotel filed the claim in February 2017, against Rory Ragoonanan, the owner of the land next to theirs, as well as the THA and the AG.
The owners of Viola’s Place, Joan and Roland Braithwaite, in the lawsuit, complained of construction on the adjacent property, which included stockpiling mounds of dirt, creating excessive dust, which caused problems for staff and guests and also prevented the hotel from renting certain rooms.
Excavation work also allegedly caused stress to the hotel's southern perimeter wall, so that it collapsed. The work also caused rain and groundwater to back up and settle, creating a stagnant lake and resulting in a mosquito infestation.
The lawsuit said there has been a drop in bookings at the hotel because of the dust, mosquitoes and noise from Ragoonanan’s property and negative reviews of the hotel were posted on Trip Advisor and Facebook.
Viola’s Place is seeking compensation for the construction of the retaining wall, the loss of use of four rooms at $650 per day for five days and loss of income which resulted from the negative reviews.
The lawsuit also contended that complaints were made to the Town and Country Planning Division, the Division of Infrastructure and Public Utilities and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
In striking out the claim against the THA and AG, Justice Frank Seepersad said it was evident that the development work complained of was done by a private landowner and not the State or the THA.
The judge also visited the site and, in his ruling, said he was shocked to see the “virtual swamp” of stagnant water.
He said while the claim against the State and the THA could not be maintained, the issue of enforcement of regulations needed to be looked at.
Seepersad warned of the possibility of an outbreak of dengue or some other mosquito-borne disease if the situation is allowed to continue, and the effects it may have on tourists.
“We cannot continue like this. Laws and planning regulations must be enforced we are not living in the wild west, where anything goes, or are we?" he asked.