Case details

The Attorney General (Appellant) v River Doree Holdings Limited (Respondents) (Saint Lucia)

Case ID: JCPC 2015/0032

Jurisdiction: The Court of Appeal of St Lucia

Case summary

Issue

The correct construction of the terms of a lease, including in light of the approach to construction set out in the St Lucia Civil Code.

Facts

The Government granted a lease of agricultural land to River Dorée Holdings Limited ("River Dorée) for an initial term of 50 years. The terms of the lease gave River Dorée the option of purchasing the property subject to the lease ("the Property") after the 10th year of the lease, and stipulated a purchase price. The lease also provided for a defined ‘Development Program’ to be carried out on the property by River Dorée. Additionally, a recital in the preamble to the lease stated that the lessee would be permitted to purchase the Property after 10 years, but further set out that this would be subject to the lessee satisfactorily carrying out the terms of the lease including the ‘Development Program’. After 10 years of the lease had passed, River Dorée gave notice to the Government of its desire to purchase the Property. The Government refused to convey the Property on the basis that the option to purchase was subject to a proviso River Dorée satisfactorily carried out the Development Program, which it concluded in its investigations that River Dorée had not done. River Dorée issued proceedings seeking inter alia a declaration that it was entitled to have the lands in its possession transferred to it by the Government at any time, on the ground that the terms of the lease contained no such binding proviso. At a preliminary hearing the Master found in favour of the Government on the issue of construction. The trial judge agreed, and further found that River Dorée had not satisfactorily completed the Development Program. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding that the clear and unambiguous language of the terms of the lease could not be qualified by a recital or narrative of intention. The Attorney General now contends that the decision of the Court of Appeal should be set aside and the decision of the judge be restored.

Parties

Appellant

The Attorney General

Respondent

River Doree Holdings Limited

Appeal

Justices

Lord Mance, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hodge, Sir Bernard Rix

Hearing start date

09 May 2017

Hearing finish date

09 May 2017

Watch hearing
09 May 2017 Morning session