|Judge to decide on Thema’s lawsuit |
JADA LOUTOO Tuesday, January 10 2017
A HIGH COURT judge is expected to, in April, rule on whether the appropriate forum for hearing of the multi-million dollar claim by gymnast Thema Williams against the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) is the high court or dispute resolution.
This as the TTGF raised a preliminary objection to Williams’ lawsuit, in which she is seeking $11.38 million compensation for its alleged “harsh and oppressive” actions against her which shattered her dream of qualifying for the Olympic games held last August. Hearing of the lawsuit came up before Justice Frank Seepersad in the Port-of-Spain High Court yesterday. The matter was adjourned to April 25 when the judge will give his ruling.
According to TTGF’s defence, Clause 4 of Williams’ Athlete’s Agreement with the Federation expressly provides that all disputes arising out of or connected with the agreement were subject to resolution exclusively through the procedures set out by the TTGF by-laws and/or, if appropriate, through the procedures of the TT Olympic Committee.
The TTGF says Williams’ own attorneys activated the dispute resolution provisions after she was pulled from the Olympic Test Event.
It said it established a disciplinary committee to preside over any matter relating to the rules and regulations to its membership and any claim against the TTGF arising from the athlete’s agreement constituted a dispute under Clause 4.
They have asked that Williams’ claim be struck out.
Seepersad, at yesterday’s hearing, agreed that the preliminary objection be heard before the case goes forward, noting that “if the defendant is correct then we will have to mash breaks and go elsewhere.” This means if the court rules in favour of the TTFG, closed-door dispute resolution proceedings will be held and the outcome of any decision will be confidential.
The Federation has been given until February 10 to file its submissions in support of its preliminary objection and Williams’ attorneys will respond by March 7.
Williams’ lawsuit in which she is seeking damages for her “loss of opportunity” and damage to her personal and professional reputation allegedly caused by the actions of the Federation’s executive, contends that by failing to be given an opportunity to qualify for the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, she suffered a huge loss of opportunity of endorsements, motivational speaking engagements and repeated business opportunities as well as a full scholarship to the Michigan State University, which she forewent in her bid to represent T&T at event.
The controversial dispute between the athlete and the federation began after Williams was replaced to this country at the Olympic Test Event at Rio de Janeiro in April, last year.
Williams claimed that her coach John Geddert was informed by the federation that she was withdrawn because she was injured, a claim which she denies.
Alternate athlete Marisa Dick was selected to participate in the event instead and eventually qualified becoming the first person to represent T&T in gymnastics at the Olympics.
Williams’ legal team includes Martin Daly, SC and Keith Scotland.
The TTGF is represented by attorney Justin Junkere.