Top tips for settling legal drama!

By Barrister Mikhail Charles

Mikhail Charles is a barrister admitted to practice in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Grenada.
In these series of mostly commercially themed articles he hopes to share some tips to assist in the facilitation of business within the islands.

The ease of Doing Business in the Caribbean especially in the smaller island states, such as our own (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[1]) is paramount in ensuring economic development. However, a culture of dispute resolution must be engendered.

Let us consider a few steps for dealing with business contract disputes. It is always best to get your agreement in writing before the commencement of any business between two or more persons or companies.

-Know your position – write down or at the very least think about a timeline from the start of the business relationship to the point of controversy, ensure that you have all documents including any text messages, emails (inclusive of Facebook, Twitter etc.), identify persons who you spoke to and who spoke to you, get early legal advice to ensure you know your legal position. It is always helpful to know your legal position, strengths and weaknesses.

-What do you really want? Is it that you want to win? Would winning destroy a good working relationship? Can a compromise be worked out? The court delays are legendary in Saint Vincent. Suing on a contract in Saint Vincent in the Magistrates Court (for disputes under ECD$15,000) or in the High Court (for anything over ECD$15,000) can take minimum 4 months to 2 years in the first instance, at excessive cost and little reward apart from winning on paper!

-Know who you are fighting! – are their pockets deep? Can they sustain a legal battle?

-Analyse the costs and benefits – the time scale has already been alluded to, are there any other options to resolve this dispute?

-Be thorough and realistic – consider mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution rather than hotly pursuing court action, be honest with your lawyer (do not hide potentially damaging evidence)Consider a series of informal meetings – relax, have a drink with them at a local bar and thrash the issues out, clear the air and hopefully come to a compromise.

NB: Adapted from - https://www.business-lawfirm.co.uk/blog/6-steps-for-dealing-with-business-contract-disputes.aspx [1] http://www.doingbusiness.org/~/media/WBG/DoingBusiness/Documents/Profiles/Country/VCT.pdf