Damages awarded following eviction

The First Hall of the Civil Court awarded damages to the owners of rural land and a farmhouse following the eviction of the occupiers of the land. 

This was decided by Mr Justice Silvio Meli on 15 October, 2014 in Loreta Williams et -v- Mario and Carmen Spiteri.

The plaintiffs stated in their application that the Court of Appeal on 9 November, 2009 ordered that the defendants vacate rural land in Zurrieq and the plaintiffs allowed to take possession of the same land. When possession took place the plaintiffs discovered that the property was abandoned and there were a number of damages.

In order to carry out reparatory works the expense amounted to €68,134.17. They also claimed damages due to the fact that they were inhibited from the possession of the land and that therefore, they could not cultivate any products. They asked the court to condemn the defendants to pay damages.

The Spiteris raised a number of pleas, including that they occupied the land with the consent of one of the plaintiffs and that they had no juridical relationship with the plaintiffs. Furthermore, they argued that the action was time barred.

Mr Justice Meli made reference to the report presented by the technical expert, who explained that the property is situated close to the Hal-Far industrial estate. The property was purchased by the plaintiff’s father in 1942 and in 1972 Joseph Cachia took possession of the land, however, it was not established under which title.

In 2001, Mario Spiteri appeared on the scene and Cachia did not feature any more. Spiteri was later evicted by means of the Court of Appeal judgement. The court expert further explained that the farmhouse had to be rebuilt and agreed with the plaintiff’s claim of €68,134.17. The expert held that the property was illegally occupied from 2001 to 2005 and therefore, adequate compensation for this would be €32,874. As regards loss of earnings this amounted to €2,620.55. A further €20,000 was due to works that were made by Joseph Cachia.

The court held in its judgement that there was nothing precluding it from agreeing with its expert and therefore, the total damages amounted to €124,959.88.

Mr Justice Meli examined the pleas of the defendant, the first of which was whether the parties had a juridical relationship. The court pointed out that the court of appeal judgement bound the parties and had upheld the plaintiffs’ request for the defendants to be evicted.

As regards whether the action was time barred by two and five years respectively, according to articles 2153 and 2156(f) of the Civil Code, the court pointed out that the prescription period commences when the right is established or else when action is taken to establish that right.

In previous judgments Calleja -v- Said of 31 October, 2003, the prescription period begins when the action may be exercised. The plaintiff could not claim damages when the eviction case was pending. Therefore, the prescription period commenced from the date of the court of appeal judgement.

The expert concluded that the property was illegally occupied between 2001-2005

Therefore, the court concluded by ordering the defendants to pay the plaintiffs the sum of €124,959.88

Malcolm Mifsud, Partner, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates

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