The Court may rest solely on the plaintiff’s evidence, even if the Defendant gives another version of events. This was held in Metropolis Development Limited -v- Professor Erik van Egeraat and Erick van Egeraat Beheer BV on 19 October 2021 by the First Hall of the Civil Courts presided by Judge Anna Felice.
The plaintiff company asked the court to remove a special privilege and special hypothec which the defendants had registered against it. In the sworn application the company claimed that these were illegally registered and represented work carried out by an architect on the company’s properties. The Company claimed that the defendants had set up in its property and charged the expense to it.
The defendants rebutted the claim by stating that the Plaintiff company had engaged them as architects of projects it had and what they are claiming are fees for professional services given to them. The Court pointed out that according to Article 2010 and 2022 of the Civil Code a privilege on immoveable property may be registered for fees of amongst others for architects’ fees.
Judge Felice also pointed out that the court had two opposing versions from either party. The company’s director Galal Ibrahim Husni Bey explained that he had met the architect following an open competition of the company’s projects. The parties to this case had discussed a possible joint venture. Since the defendant van Egeraat needed a place to stay and work, the company provided him with an apartment. The apartment was furnished, but the defendant asked Husni Bey to purchase more furniture. The expense had to be reduced from his share of the profits.
Husni Bey told the court that the expense was high, and the company was receiving the invoices. The joint venture never materialised. Following this the company received an invoice of over €16,000 from the defendant architect. The sum was in fact 6% of the total cost of the renovation of a building owned by the company. The company contested this claim since no construction was carried out in the building and that the defendant spent large amounts of money on the furniture he purchased for his apartment.
Furthermore, the defendant did not pay his rent. The company insisted that it never engaged the defendant to carry out any work.
On the other hand the defendant held that it was Husni Bey who asked him to come to Malta to work on a number of properties. No agreement was signed between the parties but in April and May 2016 he asked to be paid. The company refused and instead offered to work as a joint venture. At this point, the company offered that the defendant could convert a property into his office and offered to pay for all the furniture. The defendant held that it worked on the interior design on one of the buildings and this was approved by Husni Bey himself. The works carried out were extensive and were under his direction.
The Court held that this case depends on the credibility of the witnesses. It quoted from a judgement Maria Xuereb et -v- Clement Gauci decided by the Court of Appeal on 24 March 2004, which explained that where there is a conflict of versions the court would need to rest of any corroborating evidence and that the plaintiff is bound to prove its case. In Chef Choice Limited -v- Raymond Galea decided on 26 September 2013, the First Hall of the Civil Courts held that the plaintiff must prove its case. The fact that the defendant has a different version of the facts, does not mean that the plaintiff did not prove its case. The court is free to rest on the plaintiff’s evidence.
In this case Judge Felice did not deem that the defendant’s version of events as credible. The defendant did not present any documents to substantiate their claim, including invoices while the works were taking place. The Court an email of 16 April 2016 where the defendant confirmed that he is not owed anything from the plaintiff company. The Court has no evidence that the defendants were engaged. Another fact that the Court took into consideration is that the defendant architect was warranted as a Maltese architect in December 2016, but is expecting to be paid for work carried out before this fate.
The Court then moved to uphold the plaintiff’s claims.
Av Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
The article is available on MaltaToday.
For more information you can contact one of our Team Members at Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates.