Court bans Wathey II from defaming siblings in public

POSTED: 04/16/12 12:59 PM

Heirs have to provide account of their estate

St. Maarten – The heirs of Norman Chester Wathey booked a partial victory in summary proceedings against Norman Chester Wathey II, formerly Leopold Stanley Hughes on Friday. But Wathey II, who has been waging a bitter war against the heirs since 2001 over his rights to part of the estate, also got an important concession out of the lawsuit.

Wathey II established via DNA-testing that Norman Chester Wathey is his biological father. So far, attempts to claim his part of the estate have led nowhere, in spite of court rulings that went in his favor. Wathey II took his case to the media where he brought details in the public domain via interviews, letters to the editor and paid advertisements.
The heirs – Joyceline Jessica, Wilma Diana, Norma Joan, Brenda Kay and Wenda Angele Wathey and Maureen Venetta Richardson – took Wathey II to court because they considered certain statements in especially one letter to the editor and in paid advertisement derogatory, unfounded and incorrect. The statements also potentially damage the business interests of the Wathey Holding Company and Wathey Management NV, because Wathey II claimed that these companies were not allowed to contract business without his permission.

Judge mr. Koen Luijks wrote in his ruling that Wathey II has to refrain from making unfounded, incorrect and defaming statements in the media about the Wathey heirs under threat of a 10,000 guilder per day penalty with a maximum of half a million guilders (close to $278,000).
But the court rejected a demand by the heirs that Wathey II refrains from publishing information he will obtain about the Wathey-companies and the estate they consider confidential. This would lead to an unacceptable limitation of Wathey II’s right to freedom of expression that is guaranteed in St. Maarten’s State Regulation and in the European Human Rights Treaty. However, Judge Luijks noted that Wathey II is not allowed to make unlawful statements that would defame the Wathey heirs in public.
The court declared a third demand by the Wathey heirs – payment of a 15,000 guilders advance in damages to cover the costs (like advertising and legal advice) they had to make for damage control – because it lacks urgency; this condition is a requirement for rulings in summary proceedings.
Wathey II demanded in reconvention a complete account of his father’s estate; since he established paternity, the heirs systematically kept him out of the loop with regard to the estate. As an heir to the estate, he claims entitlement to a description of everything that falls within the estate per January 4, 2001, and to an account of the way the heirs managed the estate since that date.

Judge Luijks considered that the heirs have contested Wathey II’s rights to the estate for a long time and that he has been forced to fight for these rights for more than ten years.
“Even after the June 24, 2011 ruling of the Common Court of Justice became irrevocable and after several requests by the notary that handles the estate, the heirs refuse to provide information.”
The court granted Wathey II’s request. Judge Luijks pointed out that the heirs are obliged to provide the information – both about the estate’s position on January 4, 2001 and about the way the estate has been managed since that date.
mr. Luijks wrote in his ruling that an article in the civil code obliged the heirs to provide “correct, accurate and complete written information.” If they fail to do so the other heirs risk losing their rights to the estate.”
The court ordered the heirs to provide Wathey II with this information within thirty days under threat of a 20,000 guilder per day penalty for non-compliance. The maximum of this penalty is 25 million guilders (almost $13.9 million).
“The heirs must be able to provide Wathey II with this information within the thirty days, especially with the help of notary Gijsbertha who according to his own statements is familiar with the history of the estate, and with the help of Price Waterhouse Coopers in St. Maarten that was recently hired by the heirs to advise about the settlement of the estate,” Judge Luijks concluded.

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