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Law firm sues WSC over billing dispute

Halsbury Chambers law firm is suing the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC), claiming the government entity has not paid outstanding legal fees after the firm refused to proceed with a personal defamation lawsuit on behalf of WSC Chairman Adrian Gibson.

In a writ filed in the Supreme Court last week, the law firm claims that WSC owes some $40,221 in legal fees.

Halsbury Chambers claims that WSC, through Gibson, engaged the firm in January 2019 to act on its behalf in the collection of money from delinquent customers.

However, in July 2019, the writ alleges, Gibson requested the firm to proceed with defamation action against Gregory Miller, president of Apex Underground and Utilities Co. Ltd.

“…Mr. Adrian Gibson insisted that the defamation proceedings be brought against Mr. Miller,” the writ reads.

“ Mr. Gibson was of the view that the words spoken injured his reputation and lowered his reputation in the esteem of right-thinking members of the Bahamian public and otherwise caused him to become exposed to public ridicule which affected his influential position as outlined on Adrian Gibson’s behalf in the said letter.

“…The chairman insisted that the defamation action commence against the said Gregory Miller and that the legal fees relative thereto be paid by Water and Sewerage Corporation, the first defendant herein, and not by him personally.”

However, Halsbury Chambers said Gibson was advised that because that lawsuit was personal in nature, it should be paid by him and not from the public purse.

After that, the writ noted, Gibson refused to communicate with the firm and did not pay legal fees owed for the collection of payments from delinquent customers.

“The chairman was advised that since the defamation action was personal in nature that legal fees ought to be paid by him personally and not from the public purse,” it reads.

“Thereafter, the chairman stopped all communication with the plaintiff and willfully refused and/or neglected to pay legal fees regarding the collection of delinquent accounts from customers of the first defendant as agreed.”

According to the writ, there was a meeting in “early February 2020” with WSC general manager, during which it was agreed that the outstanding fees would be paid in two installments.

“At that time, the general manager of the first defendant acknowledged the outstanding fees and agreed to pay same by way of two installments,” it reads.

“…On the 18th February 2020, the first defendant made a payment towards its indebtedness and agreed to pay the balance by the end of February 2020. The first defendant failed and refused to pay the balance as agreed.

“In September 2020, the first defendant paid $20,000 towards its indebtedness and stipulated that said payment would have been in full and final settlement.

“…The aforesaid payment of $20,000 was not full and final settlement and hence the plaintiff advised the first defendant accordingly.

“…On the 9th October 2020, the plaintiff wrote the first defendant and demanded settlement of the outstanding fees in the aggregate sum of $40,221.07.”

However, when contacted about the matter yesterday, Gibson, in a statement, said WSC is disputing the fees, claiming they were incurred after the corporation disengaged the firm.

“Notwithstanding our severing of ties, we have communications from Halsbury Chambers of evidence that they continued to conduct legal work on our behalf and without further instructions,” he said.

“We are of the view that this has resulted in further disputed billings. The position of their termination had to be reiterated (by email and again in other letters) on at least two to three other occasions given the aforementioned.

“As recent as September 16, 2020, Halsbury Chambers sent an email to WSC stating that they appeared before the Supreme Court on September 14, 2020. In response, General Manager [Elwood] Donaldson reminded them that the relationship had been terminated earlier (January 2020) in the year, chided them for acting with instruction, and reminded them that they were continuing to work on (WSC’s) behalf contrary to our instructions/decision.”

Gibson also suggested that it is the responsibility of the Water and Sewerage Corporation to foot the bill for the defamation action he wanted to be undertaken, as comments he believes were defamatory were made against him in his public capacity as WSC chairman.

“All of Mr. Miller’s comments touched and concerned WSC and my capacity therein,” he said.

Gibson also claimed that the law firm never advised him that his writ would be personal, and said the firm had begun work on the matter.

“At no time did Mr. McCartney tell me that to file a writ would be personal. It could not be as all matters happened or related to my public role/capacity,” he said.

Gibson said WSC will instruct its attorneys to file a complaint with the Bahamas Bar Association against Halsbury Chambers.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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