GeoTech to appeal Supreme Court judgment
IT company disappointed over ruling against state-owned e-Learning Jamaica
IT FIRM GeoTechVision says it will “vigorously” appeal yesterday’s Supreme Court judgment dismissing its claim for the state-owned e-Learning Jamaica Company to pay more than US$100 million for terminating a contract to supply over 19,000 tablets to public schools in 2019.
E-Learning won its counterclaim in the sum of J$155,640, with interest at a rate of six per cent per annum, and GeoTech will also have to pay legal costs in both claims.
But the company said despite the ruling, it maintains its strong belief in the merits of its case and remains steadfast in its pursuit of justice.
It said that the court’s decision has come as a “surprise”.
The judgment was handed down by Justice Lisa Palmer Hamilton yesterday.
“After careful consideration and consultation with our legal team, GeoTechVision is confident that an appeal should be pursued,” GeoTech said in a statement yesterday.
Company chairman, Valrie Grant, stressed that it stands by the principles of fairness, integrity, and accountability and said that the company is “fully committed to exhausting all available legal avenues as provided under the laws of Jamaica to ensure that justice is served”.
GeoTech filed a claim in February 2020 seeking damages and loss arising from what it said was e-Learning’s breach of contract, its failure to perform the contract as agreed, and/or damages on a quantum meruit basis.
The tech company claimed that it entered into a contract with e-Learning in November 2018 for the provision of tablets, syncing and services for the E-Learning Project in schools.
GeoTech said that e-Learning failed to perform the contract as agreed and wrongfully terminated the said contract in October 2019 without adhering to the terms and in circumstances where it was in clear default of its obligations for performance.
The IT firm sought damages in the sum of J$500,000 and US$104,614,062.10; interest at the Bank of Jamaica’s commercial average, or compounded annually or monthly at the rate of 10 per cent; costs and attorneys’ costs, and any further relief the court felt fit in the circumstances of the case.
However, e-Learning denied that it breached the contract and counterclaimed against GeoTech, seeking damages for breach of contract.
The state entity said that GeoTech failed and/or refused to perform and/or meet its obligations under the said contract.
The court sought to determine whether e-Learning breached the contract entered into for the provision of the tablets, syncing, and services; whether GeoTech was entitled to loss and damages for breach of contract; whether GeoTech instead breached the said contract; and whether e-Learning is entitled to damages for breach of contract.
The contract the two entities entered into was valued at US$16 million. GeoTech was to supply 19,305 tablets to public schools.
However, just under a year later, e-Learning ended the contract, claiming that GeoTech failed to deliver the tablets and related accessories.
It accused GeoTech of missing several deadlines and submitting poor-quality samples of tablets between February 2019 when the order was made and September 2019 when the contract was expected to be fulfilled.
Up to July 25, 2019, only 1,100 tablets had reached Jamaica.
In one instance, e-Learning told the court that it received five “gold standard” tablets in June 2019, which tests later found to be non-functional and well below the required standards specified in the contract, the court judgment noted.
E-Learning also rejected claims by GeoTech that it was responsible for the delays because among other things, it did not provide a requested list of schools.
Justice Palmer Hamilton said it was not in dispute that when the contract was terminated GeoTech had only 4,354 tablets in Jamaica and “this would mean that at the start of the school year in 2019, the 19,305 tablets and associated accessories were not available for roll-out”.
The bulk of the devices arrived in Jamaica at the end of September.
“Where a party fails to comply with the terms and conditions of a contract, the innocent party is entitled to rescind the said contract. This is what the Defendant Company (e-Learning) elected to do in this case,” the judge said, after dismissing GeoTech’s reasons for the delays such as shipping.
The judge also said that “having found that the defendant company did not breach the contract”, GeoTech “would not be entitled to any damages”.
She also agreed that the sample tablets that e-Learning received did not meet the specifications under the contract.
E-Learning’s counterclaim against GeoTech involved US$25,000 for legal services retained to terminate the contract and J$156,000 used to readvertise the contract in local media.
While the judge did not accept the argument regarding the legal services, she accepted that the readvertisement “naturally arises” from the breach of contract and ordered GeoTech to pay e-Learning $155,640, the figure from an invoice submitted.
But Grant said that GeoTech remains confident in its position and will be working with its legal team in order to achieve a favourable resolution of the appeal.
“We have a responsibility to our employees, stakeholders, and clients to protect our reputation and the integrity of our business,” said Grant.
E-Learning was represented by Linton Gordon and his son, Obika Gordon, both from the firm Frater, Ennis & Gordon.
King’s Counsel Denise Kitson and attorneys Kevin Williams and Gordon McFarlane argued for GeoTech.