Persons who claim that they had already paid their debts in cash, still have to prove the payment, if they are faced with a claim that the payment was not made. This was decided by the Court of Appeal in Peter Saffrett –v- Darren Galea on 23 March 2016.
The plaintiff had originally claimed before the Magistrates Court that Galeas owed him €5,140 in merchandise that he had sold him. Galea rebutted the claim that he did not owe Saffrett the money, was that Saffrett owed him.
However, the Magistrates’ Court in its judgement of 25 May 2015, awarded the plaintiff €3600 representing the merchandise sold. The Magistrates court the claim was divided into two the first for the supply of cakes and sweets amounting to €3655.72, while €1540, was with regard to equipment passed on to the defendant. The defendant did not contest that the plaintiff sold these products to him and that a certain Antoine Camilleri had signed for them on behalf of the defendant, but held that he paid all the invoices but one. However, the plaintiff insisted that there were more than one invoice pending, which represented 3 months in 2011. The defendant argued that the dispute arose on the returns, which the plaintiff had to accept. However, this was denied by the plaintiff. The plaintiff however, did not manage to prove that the defendant had to pay for equipment he had given to the latter. The Magistrate’s Court order that Galea pay Saffrett €3,600.
Galea then appealed the judgement, however, in one of the sitting added another ground of appeal that he had no legal relationship with the plaintiff. However, his written grounds of appeal included that the first court to not evaluate the evidence well. Galea quoted from Paul Buttigieg –v- Anglu Saliba of 15 June 2011, which stated that although the court of appeal does not usually review the court evaluation of the evidence, when it is manifestly erroneous, then the court of appeal should do so.
The defendant, argued that this was such a case.
The defendant under oath had complained to the court he had paid the invoices and that he had given cheques to the plaintiff’s suppliers which were used as payments for these invoices. The Court pointed out that according to Article 562 of the Civil Code, who alleges must prove and must produce the best evidence (Article 559). The Court pointed out that most of these invoices cover the period between May and July 2011, while 3 were not dated and some of which were addressed to the clients of the defendant, Galea. Furthermore, the first invoice presented was signed by Galea, while the rest were signed by Antoine Galea, who was authorised by Galea to sign for the supply of goods. The Court held that Saffrett’s testimony was more credible, since it was backed by signed invoices. On the hand Galea did not deny that the invoices presented represented goods delivered to him, in fact, it was Galea who gave Saffrett the invoice book to use. The defendant’s complaint was that these invoices were already paid. He offered to present the cheques proving payment of these invoices. However, the cheques presented were dated before, the dates of the invoices. The Court held that the First Court was correct to discard these cheques. The Court of Appeal was not convinced that other cheques presented by the defendant were not payments for these particular invoices presented by the plaintiff. Most of these cheques were post dated cheques and therefore, the defendant could not connect the cheques with the invoices. Faced with the Court held that it the onus fell on the defendant to prove that he had already paid these invoices. The defendant held that at times, he paid in cash. If this was the case, the defendant must have proved, how much was paid in cash and for which invoices.
With regard to the issue whether returns were accepted by the plaintiff, it was clear that there was no agreement. The plaintiff, held that there was no agreement for him to accept returns of cakes which went bad, although in some occasions he did accept them. The plaintiff insisted there was no agreement to accept them every time. The defendant insisted on this but failed to present invoices showing this verbal agreement.
The Court criticised on the unorganised way both parties worked, but the plaintiff all the same managed to prove his case. The defendant, however, although tried to show the court that he was an organised businessman, proved the opposite. He did not manage to connect payments with specific invoices. He was meant to keep a record of payments and invoices, which clearly he did not do.
The Court, then moved to dismiss the defendant’s appeal.
Av. Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
This article may also be accessed on Malta Today.
For more information you can contact one of our Team Members at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates.