Any hopes of leading local ice cream manufacturer BICO collecting any of the $11.2 million in damages recently awarded by the High Court have quickly melted away by an appeal.
Late last month, the court awarded judgment to BICO as a result of a fire over seven years ago which destroyed its manufacturing plant, forcing the company to cease production of the frozen desserts here and instead manufacturing it in Trinidad and Suriname.
After the blaze on August 18, 2009, BICO sued Qual-Tech Services, the firm which was servicing its boilers at the time of the fire, for more than $14 million in damages.
Today, just over a month-and-a-half following the court judgment, BICO’s Executive Chairman Edwin Thirlwell was doubtful the company would receive the money any time soon.
“We are delighted the judgment went in our favour, although it is a bit disappointing that before we had chance to make efforts to collect the award . . . our lawyers received notice of any appeal, although we are not sure on what grounds the appeal will be made,” Thirlwell told Barbados TODAY, adding that he hoped this latest move by Qual-Tech Services would not result in another long drawn-out legal process.
Asked if he was prepared for the long haul, the BICO boss skirted the question, stating it was up to the directors to act in the best interest of the company.
“The funds that we are trying to recover belong to the shareholders, and directors have a duty to act in the best interest of the shareholders and the stakeholders have to do their best to collect anything that is due to them; and I believe the award is illustrative,” Thirlwell said.
In a separate press release issued today, the executive chairman said there was no certainty as to when any cash would be forthcoming.
However, he said it was important to appreciate the fact that the recent court decision was not the end of what had been a long and difficult road for the ice cream manufacturer since the fire.
“Yes, we reached a milestone with the recent Supreme Court decision, which found that we were not at fault, and should be compensated. That aside, it is my understanding that we may have to be facing a lengthy appeal process.
“Added to that, I expect that BICO will also be receiving further advice from our legal team,” he stated.
Thirlwell said despite making positive strides in recent years, his company was still recovering from the blaze, which had forced it to source its ice cream products from outside of Barbados.
“Since the fire, we have all – including shareholders, management and staff – had to make sacrifices to remain viable. So while we would like to see a resolution to these legal proceedings, we believe we are obliged to stay the course in the best interests of our shareholders, staff and BICO’s long term viability,” he said.
With respect to the future possibilities for the resumption of ice cream manufacturing in Barbados, Thirlwell said, the company was in no position to consider this option in the
“When that time comes, we will make the decision in the best interests of all concerned,” Thirlwell said.