The First Hall of the Civil Court decided that once parties to a legal action have concluded their differences in a contract, the court case can become futile. This was decided by Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti in Bernardette Licari -v- Carmel Attard, Joy Attard and Benjamin Rizzo as liquidator of Denelir Properties Limited on 21 November, 2016.
In Licari’s application in 2010 she explained that in August 1994, Attard had purchased an apartment in Tower Road, Sliema. In the description of property in the contract, the address indicated Sir Luigi Camilleri Street, but there was also access from Tower Road. In January 1995, the plaintiff had purchased from Denelir Properties the airspace and roof of a block of apartments in Sir Luigi Camilleri Street, Sliema. The owners of the apartments had a right to place a water tank and aerial. However, the Attards made more use by hosting BBQs and also sunbathing on the roof.
The former owners, Denelir, denied giving the Attards this right. The Attards filed a lawsuit asking the court to confirm that they had a servitude over the roof. In December 1998 the Attards and Denelir signed a contract defining and outlining the property which was sold in 1994. Licari complained that the 1998 contract did not correct the 1994 contract, but the Attards had purchased another apartment in the same block and therefore, was a simulation.
Licari asked the court to declare that the 1998 contract was not a correction of the 1994 contract, and therefore, a simulation of a sale and so order the defendants to enter into a correctional public deed.
The defendants filed a statement of defence, including that this action was decided by a judgement delivered in December 2013 Bernardette Licari -v- Benjamin Rizzo noe. Mr Justice Chetcuti held that the court would first examine and decide this point. The Court went through the 2013 judgement which went through the facts of the case, which among other things highlighted that the 1994 contract, mentioned that the Attards acquired pro-rata the use of the roof.
Licari had closed off access to the roof from the common stairway, by changing the lock. In May 1989 the Attards had instituted an action asking for access to the roof. In March 2004, another action was instituted, which was then decided in 2013. In that judgement, it made mention of a contract signed in January 2012 between Attard and Denelir, where the Attards accepted to use the roof limited to the placing of water tank and other services and renounced to using the roof for any other purpose. In the same contract they also corrected the 1994 contract. The same parties signed another contract in October 2012, again correcting the 1994, 1998 and 2012 contracts, which was to supersede and settle any dispute.
The Court pointed out that the plaintiff in this case and in the case decided in 2013 were the same. In the previous case the plaintiff was asking for damages, while in the present case was to annul the 1998 contract.
In the 2013 judgement the Court had commented on the 2012 contract and said that the withdrawal of rights was to be clearly mentioned in order to leave no doubt. The 2012 contract renounced the rights on the roof from the Attards. The fact that the plaintiff was not a party to the contract, affected Licari positively because the withdrawal of the Attards’ rights was established. The defendants Attard asked in this case that the Court applies the 2012 contract in the same manner.
The Court pointed out that when this action was instructed in 2010, the contract was not signed and therefore the plaintiff had a judicial interest. The 2012 contract crystalized the position of all partiers involved, where the defendants’ rights and reach established once and for all the plaintiff’s right on the roof and own space. Therefore, there is no need to annul the 1998 contract, when in 2012 the situation was corrected by means of another contract.
Although the 2012 contract was between the defendants, Article 1000 of the Civil Code states that it may also be to the advantage of third parties. In this particular case the contract was in the favour of the plaintiff, although she was not a party.
The Court then moved to uphold the plea that with the 2012 contract the plaintiff did not have any judicial interest in the merits of the case.
Av. Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
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