Recently, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (the highest appellate court for The Bahamas) issued a decision clarifying Bahamian law regarding the appeal of interlocutory judgments. The issue in the case of Junkanoo Estate Ltd v UBS Bahamas Ltd (in voluntary liquidation) ( UKPC 8, April 3 2017) arose due to a procedural question regarding the appeal of an interlocutory judgment (appeals made before a final judgment in the case has been entered).
The plaintiff in the original case, UBS Bahamas Ltd, brought an action against the defendants, Junkanoo Estate Ltd and Yuri and Irina Starostenko (Junkanoo's guarantors), in the Supreme Court of The Bahamas. Shortly after the action began, UBS Bahamas obtained a summary judgment against the defendants. The defendants filed an appeal of the summary judgment order and an application for a stay of the order directly in the Court of Appeal rather than obtaining leave from the Supreme Court to do so or applying for a stay in the Supreme Court.
UBS Bahamas objected to the defendants' appeal to the Court of Appeal for two reasons: 1) the order granting summary judgment was an interlocutory judgment requiring leave from the Supreme Court to appeal, and 2) the defendants had not sought leave from the Supreme Court to appeal. The Court of Appeal agreed and dismissed defendants' appeal. The defendants then applied to the Privy Council for an order granting special leave to appeal to the Privy Council against the Court of Appeal's decision.
The Privy Council considered the Court of Appeal Act, section 11(f), which provides that “an appeal to the Court of Appeal from an interlocutory order lies only with the leave of the Supreme Court or that of the Court of Appeal.” Junkanoo Estate, supra, at ¶ 5. Further, the Court of Appeal Rules, Rule 27(5) states that if an application can be made to a lower court or a higher court, it should be made to the lower court first. Also, an order granting summary judgment is an interlocutory order. White v Brunton  QB 570; Junkanoo Estate, supra, at ¶ 5.
In the Junkanoo Estate case, the defendants did not follow Rule 27(5), instead appealing the interlocutory summary judgment order to the higher court first. However, all was not lost to the defendants. The Privy Council stated that the defendants had not exhausted their rights in the Supreme Court. The defendants could apply for leave to appeal, though they would face some difficult questions about timing and prejudice to the original plaintiff UBS Bahamas.
In summary, the Junkanoo Estate decision clarifies exactly what parties to litigation before the Supreme Court must do to appeal interlocutory judgments and to seek stays while appeals are pending – apply to the Supreme Court first. Only if the application for leave or the stay request is rejected by the Supreme Court should a party apply to the Court of Appeal.
To find out more about interlocutory judgments, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.