Court Mandates GT Bank To Pay Over US$3 Million To Kailondo

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The Civil Law Court has found Guaranty Trust Bank (Liberia) Limited liable for action of damages for wrong in the case involving the bank and Kialondo Petroleum, by and through its Chief Executive Officer, Cllr. George B. Kailondo, ordering the bank to pay Kialondo US$3,250,000 (three million two hundred fifty thousand United States dollars) in general damages and US$420,000 (four hundred twenty thousand) plus 6% interest per year (from 2015) as special damages.

   The case was adjourned by the Assigned Judge of the Civil Law Court “B”, His Honor, Yamie Quiqui Gbeisay, Sr., on July 20, 2022. 

   On September 28, 2021, Cllr. Kailondo filed a complaint against GT Bank, accusing the bank of being liable for illegally debiting his accounts without any authorization from him and withholding the amounts being debited. In his complaint, Cllr. Kailondo also accused the bank of destroying his character and the reputable image of his business through a non-compliance letter written on August 12, 2022 to all commercial banks, putting him and his business at risk.

   On September 22, 2021, the defendant, GT Bank, responded with 51-count document, and filed a motion to dismissed Kailondo’s case on the ground of lis pendens, because prior to filing the lawsuit the plaintiff, as private prosecutor, had already filed a criminal action against the bank to restitute the amount he alleged was wrongfully debited.

   Kailondo replied the court with an 18-count answer and resisted defendant’s motion to dismiss.

   The court, in its ruling on the motion, held that the law relied on by the movant is inapplicable because the causes of action, as well as the parties, and the reliefs sought to be granted were not one and the same; as such, ordered that the case proceed on its merits to trial.

   During the trial, the plaintiff produced two regular witnesses, one subpoena witness and two rebuttal witnesses. The defendant also took the stand and produced three regular witnesses and one subpoena witness. All the witnesses for both parties were duly qualified and given the stand to testify on the direct examination. They were all cross-examined and later discharged.

   According to the court’s ruling, the plaintiff presented only one issue for consideration: whether or not the plaintiff proved his entitlement to damages by the preponderance of evidence; in other words, whether or not plaintiff is entitled to consequential damages in the form of specific and general as the result of defendant’s action in illegally debiting plaintiff’s accounts without plaintiff’s authorization, knowledge and consent, and thereafter withholding the money without authorization and subsequently issuing non-compliance memorandum to all commercial banks, which damaged the plaintiff’s image to the public and thereby denying plaintiff the use, benefit and quiet enjoyment of its bank account and bank-related transactions.

   On the other hand, the defendant presented five issues for consideration, which included whether or not the Civil Law Court could legally proceed to hear the plaintiff’s complaint when there was another pending lawsuit growing out of the same transaction involving the same parties; whether or not a contention, which was resolved through negotiation and compromise, can be litigated when the party pursuing litigation had earlier executed an instrument accepting the compromise and undertaking to assert no further claims; whether the reversals of credits made by the bank based upon return of checks by the issuing bank upon presentation of the said checks for clearing are unlawful and wrong; and whether the claim of damages alleged by the plaintiff were stated with specificity and particularity to support the award of US$2.5 million as general damages prayed for by plaintiff.  

   After passing on all the issues raised by the parties, the court observed that the defendant, in its defense, produced witnesses who merely responded to the allegations made by the plaintiff in its complaint, and that the defendant made no effort to produce any positive evidence on its own behalf; in other words, the direct examination of all defendant witnesses consisted of the reference by the counsel of defendant to specific counts of the plaintiff’s complaint, all of which consisted of denials. The court also observed that the defendant did not affirmatively put up a defense but only denied plaintiff’s claims and statements.

   The court further observed that the plaintiff provided evidence, both oral and documentary, to prove its claims against the defendant; whereas, the defendant’s entire case rested upon general denials without any positive or affirmative evidence. More besides, the court said, the defendant did not produce any evidence to establish its counter claim.

   “The court, therefore, is left with no alternative but to believe and give credence to the plaintiff’s claims and contention based on the evidence produced. In the mind of the court, the plaintiff established its case by a preponderance of the evidence, and by the production of prima facie evidence. In common law jurisdictions, a reference to prima facie evidence denotes evidence that, unless rebutted, would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact.

   “In the instant case, the court finds and holds that it is satisfied that the plaintiff established the liability of the defendant and the resultant damages arising therefrom by preponderance of evidence. The Black Law Dictionary abridged Eighth Edition, at page 991, defines preponderance of evidence as ‘the greater weight of the evidence, not necessarily established by the greater number of witnesses testifying to a fact, but by evidence that has the most convincing force; superior evidentiary weight that, though not sufficient to free the mind wholly from all reasonable doubt, is still sufficient to incline a fair and impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than the other. This is the burden of proof in more civil trial in which the jury is instructed to find for the party that, on the hold, has the stronger evidence, however slight the edge may be.’ From the analysis of the evidence adduced from both sides, this court is absolutely convinced that the plaintiff sufficiently met the above standard of proof. On the other hand, the court denies and dismisses the counter claim of the defendant because of lack of sufficient evidence or proof and lack of certainty,” Judge Gbeisay noted in his ruling.    

   “Wherefore and in view of the above holding and finding, it is the determination and final judgment of this court that the claim of the plaintiff is hereby sustained and that the defense and counter claim of the defendant are overruled, denied and dismissed. Accordingly, it is the ruling and final judgment of this court that the defendant is adjudged liable to the plaintiff and is hereby ordered to pay to the plaintiff as special damages the amount of US$420,000 plus six percent legal interest per annum, calculated from the year 2015 up and including the date of final judgment in this case; additionally, the defendant is also adjudged liable to pay to plaintiff as general damages the amount of US$3,250,000 for all the inconveniences, losses and embarrassment caused the plaintiff by the defendant in the illegal debits/withdrawal from plaintiff’s accounts and the damaging of plaintiff’s reputation by the defendant. This court also rules that the defendant is liable to pay all costs of these proceedings,” Judge Gbeisay’s final judgment observed.

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