Case details

Blackburn (Respondent) v LIAT (1974) Ltd (Appellant) (Antigua and Barbuda)

Case ID: JCPC 2019/0037

Jurisdiction: The Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (Antigua and Barbuda)

Case summary

Issue(s)
  1. Whether the CA applied the wrong test in determining that the dismissal in question was unfair;
  2. Whether the CA erred in remitting the assessment of compensation to the Industrial Court for determination based only on the evidence that was adduced before it during the trial;
  3. Whether the CA erred in setting aside the Industrial Court’s order for compensation, given the provision in s. 17(2)(b) of the Industrial Court Act, which empowers the CA "to order a new hearing on any question without interfering with the finding or decision upon any other question."
Background

The appellant is a Regional Airline Corporation providing airline services in and around the Caribbean with its headquarters in the island of Antigua. The respondent was a senior pilot employed by the appellant for thirty-three years with an undisputed unblemished record of service until the time of his dismissal.

The appellant summarily dismissed the respondent by letter dated 5 December 2011 following certain comments made by the respondent in radio interviews which the appellant considered to be defamatory and damaging to its reputation. The dismissal letter read "your employment is accordingly terminated, with immediate effect. The dismissal is on the grounds of misconduct which is so serious that LIAT cannot reasonably be expected to take any course other than termination." The appellant did not afford the respondent an opportunity to be heard, nor did it engage in a disciplinary procedure, before deciding to terminate his employment.

The respondent filed a reference in the Industrial Court alleging unfair dismissal. The Industrial Court held that the respondent had been unfairly dismissed, primarily because the appellant had not afforded the respondent an opportunity to be heard in response to the misconduct charges made against him.

Nearly two years after the Industrial Court reserved its ruling it obtained and examined, acting on its own initiative, the recordings and transcripts of the respondent’s radio statements. It did not afford the respondent an opportunity to make representations on whether the statements should be admitted, and, relying on those statements, reduced compensation by 65% on the basis that the respondent had contributed to his dismissal.

The appellant appealed the finding that the dismissal had been unfair, and the respondent cross-appealed the finding that compensation was to be reduced by 65%. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and allowed the cross-appeal, remitting the issue of compensation to the Industrial Court.

Parties

Appellant(s)

LIAT (1974) Ltd

Respondent(s)

Humphrey Michael Blackburn

Appeal

Justices

Lord Kerr, Lord Wilson, Lady Black, Lady Arden, Sir Rupert Jackson

Hearing start date

18 Feb 2020

Hearing finish date

18 Feb 2020