More than two years after a judge ordered that BICO Limited be compensated for a fire that destroyed its factory almost a decade ago, the ice cream maker still has not received a cent, executive chairman Edwin Thirlwell has revealed.
In the week that the Government announced a planned commercial court to battle a backlog of business disputes, the BICO boss has blamed sloth in the judicial system for the delay, declaring that justice was not being served.
Thirlwell told BICO’s annual news conference: “We were hoping by now that we’d be paid on the lawsuit which we were successful with. We were paid most part by our own insurers because we were fully insured… but there was actually $2.7 million of uninsured losses which we sought to require from the party found culpable for the fire.
“These are the kinds of pitfalls facing everyone. People have their own stories and ours is very similar to what other people are having. Can you imagine the factory’s fire was in 2009 and it’s now 2019 and it’s still not settled? That can’t be reasonable justice, it’s too slow.”
BICO sued Qual-Tech Services, the firm which was servicing its boilers when fire broke out in August 2009, for more than $14 million in damages.
The court ruled that Qual-Tech had been negligent in carrying out welding works to repair its boilers.
Thirwell explained that while BICO had been paid close to $16 million by its insurers, the judge had ruled that Qual-Tech was required to pay the remaining sum of money for its uninsured losses.
Qual-Tech had claimed it was unable to pay the money since its insurers had failed to honour their obligations, he said.
But Thirwell claimed that BICO was now awaiting a High Court judge’s signature on a document to allow the company to recover the money. But the judge has since moved to the criminal bench, he said.
He said: “The case of that claim is a matter of the judge signing a document to allow us to go into recovery mode, which means we will have to enforce the judgement to get the money. It looks as if it won’t be paid otherwise.
“Unfortunately the people who are responsible and were found culpable do not have the funds to pay until their own insurer pays. Now I have to then say that we are all aware of the backup of the legal system which has been made worse by the Supreme Court being closed, so whatever case you bring up now the first thing that people say is that ‘oh we can’t find the file… and the fact is there is long, long delay in any of the cases being decided.
Thirwell said the money would help finish rebuilding the new factory.
He noted that even though more judges were set to be appointed and additional criminal courts and a commercial court was on stream, he did not expect immediate relief.
“Now you would hope that everything would settle down and people would spring into action, but of course there’s a backlog, by our record 10 years of backlog to catch up on, so its unlikely to be right in the short term, it’s more likely to being the medium to long term when things get back to normal,” Thirwell said.