PHILIPSBURG--The Court of First Instance on Tuesday, May 4, awarded NAf. 125,000 in damages with legal interest to insurance broker Henderson International B.V. and ordered country St. Maarten to pay legal costs in connection with a dispute about compensation for damage assessments to government property carried out after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.
Following a bidding procedure, Henderson was awarded the contract to manage this task on behalf of the government of St. Maarten. The company inspected 40 properties, including public schools and community centres.
However, at a certain moment a new government was formed led by then-Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo, which in November 2018 involved a new claim-settler, insurance loss adjuster Smith Orloff and Associates, which used its own method and did not make use of the damage assessment sheets made by Henderson.
At the court hearing of March 11, two civil servants who were involved in this case said they believed that Henderson was entitled to reasonable compensation for its work. If a new government of a different political colour had not taken office in the meantime, Henderson would have continued its work as St. Maarten’s compensation broker, according to them.
The court considered compensation reasonable, based on the state of emergency in which St. Maarten found itself after Irma and Henderson’s efforts illustrated by the damage assessment sheets and other documentation, which ultimately led to the receipt of $5 million.
However, despite Henderson’s statutory director’s explanation at the hearing, the court did not fully understand why the same number of hours was almost always declared per building for each employee engaged and why five people were involved per building.
In the judge’s opinion, the results of these efforts – the damage assessment sheets – do not justify this. Also, the court considered the hourly rate of NAf. 400 too high.
Taking all circumstances into account, the court considered it reasonable to award NAf. 225,000, from which was deducted an advance of NAf. 100,000 already received. The amount is much lower than the sum originally claimed.
The claimed statutory interest was awarded from November 19, 2018, because on that date Henderson ordered government to pay them.
As the predominantly unsuccessful party, government was ordered to pay the legal costs which were set at NAf. 9,389.50, with statutory interest from 14 days after the date of the verdict.