S/Court Upholds Decision against Subah-Belleh in US$100K Damages

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After reviewing the evidence on the record, the Supreme Court has upheld the lower court’s decision that defendant Nelson Oniyama had title and the right of possession to 3.31 acres of land situated at Bushrod Island in Monrovia, which had been a subject of ejection since 2010.

The decision was reached with a vote of three (3) in favor and two (2) against among the five justices of the Supreme Court.

Those Justices in favor were Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh, Associate Justice Philip A.Z. Banks and Associate Justice Sie-A.Nyene G. Yuoh, while Chief Justice Francis S. Korkpor and Associate Justice Jamesetta H. Wolokollie were against the decision.

 The  case was filed in the Supreme Court by lawyers representing Pewu Subah and Willie Belleh arguing that the Civil Law Court  denied their request for a new trial and refused to reverse its  jury verdict declaring defendant Oniyama not liable (not guilty)  in an  “Action of Ejection,” lawsuit, for which they were claiming US$100,000 in damages.

Pewu Subah and Willie Belleh jointly owned the Subah-Belleh and Associate, a Liberian professional group that has been providing management consultancy and research services in the country.

But, upholding the lower court’s decision, Associate Justice Philip A. Z. Banks, now Justice in Chambers, who delivered the High Court’s opinion,  declared that “the trial judge confirming the jury verdict to award the property to defendant Nelson Oniyama, being in accordance with the facts and the law, said verdict and judgment are hereby affirmed.”

Defending their actions, Justice Banks said, they (three justices) reviewed the facts and circumstances presented in the case, including oral arguments advanced by the parties and the contention in their respective briefs.

“Having carefully examined the law governing and applicable to ejection matters; they were satisfied that the    plaintiff (Subah-Belleh) did not meet the evidentiary burden of proof standard required under our law relating to ejection cases,” Justice Banks further clarified.

He went on to instruct the Clerk of Court” to send a mandate to the Civil Law Court, commanding the judge presiding therein to resume jurisdiction over the case, and to proceed to enforce the judgment of the court in accordance with the law. Cost is adjudged against the plaintiff, Pewu Subah and Willie Belleh.”

Prior to Justice Banks’ ruling, the jury of the Civil Law Court returned from their room of deliberation and came down with an unanimously non-liable (non-guilty) verdict in favor of defendant Oniyama, concluding that he had title and the right of possession to the disputed property.

They also denied Subah and Belleh US$100,000 damages claimed against defendant Oniyama.

Immediately, after the jury verdict, lawyers of Subah and Belleh asked the court to set-it aside and order a new trial because, they argued, said verdict was clearly contrary to the weight of the oral and documentary evidence adduced by the defendant during the trial.

Equally convinced that the plaintiffs (Subah and Belleh) had failed to meet the requisite burden of proof standard governing ejection, the court went ahead and denied their request  and proceeded to enter final judgment against them.

It was based on the decision that Subah and Belleh appealed before the Supreme Court to review the ruling of the lower court.

The case emerged on May 9, 2011, when Subah and Belleh lawyers complained to the lower court, arguing that defendant Nelson Oniyama had encroached on property, which they had ownership to by virtue of a deed alleged to have been issued in their favor by one John G.T. Nagbe, purported administrator of the Intestate Estate of the late G. Koffa Nagbe.

They further alleged that in 1985, the Monthly and Probate Court for Montserrado County, upon the request of John G. T. Nagbe, administrator of the Intestate Estate of the late G. Koffa Nagbe, issued a court’s decree of sale of real property.

They said, in 1986, John G.T. Nagbe as administrator of the estate sold a certain parcel of land containing 3.31 acres to them.

They also said that after they were given the property they further lease it to Lemminkainen O.Y., a Finish construction company, which was operating in Liberia.

Unfortunately, Subah and Belleh claimed that in July 2008, the same Monthly and Probate Court issued letters of administration to one Agnes S, Nagbe, claiming to be another heir of the Nagbe estate. By then, they alleged, John G.T. Nagbe, who was the original administrator, had died.

“On the strengthen of those letters of administration, Agnes S. Nagbe sold the 3.31 acres of land to defendant Nelson Oniyama ,” they alleged in their lawsuit.

Shortly after obtaining the administrator ‘s deed, Subah and Belleh alleged, “Oniyama began to assert title to and authority over the land , which they appealed to the  Civil Law Court to evict him and to compensate them with US$100,000 for the more than two (2) years during which he had deprived them of the property.

In counter argument, Oniyama’s lawyers pled with the court to dismiss the complaint, arguing that their client on July 11, 2008 acquired through a genuine purchase the parcel of land from the Intestate Estate of the late G. Koffa Nagbe, comprising 3.31 acres of land which is the subject of ejection.

According to him, before he could purchased the property,  notices  to survey it were published on several occasions  in the Inquirer newspaper and also announced on radio , thereby giving notice to other interested parties , if  any, that they were about to purchase the said parcel of land.

Thereafter, they conducted the survey on June 6, 2008, “even though many persons appeared including one Jones, believed to be a surveyor of Subah-Belleh Associate, but not a single person objected to the said re-survey,”  Oniyama further claimed.

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