Loan Fund loses in default case
The Student Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF) has failed in its bid to go after a “guarantor” for default of a student loan.
On January 11, High Court Judge Olson Alleyne dismissed a claim brought by the SRLF Management Committee against Bernard Chase after finding that the fund could not prove that Chase signed the deed to repay the money, on default of the loan.
Chase, who was represented by Roger Forde QC, was one of two defendants whom the SRLF alleged signed as “guarantors” on a $50 000 loan agreement on behalf of Cherise Harewood, now O’Grady in 1997.
O’Grady has never repaid the loan which stood at $137,175.75, including cost and interest in 2010 when the case was first filed in court. It now stands at close to $180 000.
The legal action was brought against Chase, the other defendant, and O’Grady, in 2010.
Chase challenged the legal action on two grounds: that the statute of limitation had expired and that he did not sign the contract and, therefore, was not bound by it.
While Forde argued that the statute of limitation was six years, attorney for the SRLF, Edmund Hinkson, submitted that it was 12 years. The judge accepted the 12-year period, ruling: “After due consideration, I have determined that the claim is not statute-barred.”
In relation to the loan contract, Chase denied that he signed the document, saying he was not in agreement with certain aspects of it. Furthermore, he testified that he was not in Barbados on August 13, 1997, the date the SRLF was claiming that he signed the document. He also produced his passport showing he was in the UK between July 31, 1997, and September 1, 1997.
After hearing evidence from a loan officer, who described the man named Chase, who signed the contract as a “tall dark guy with dreadlocks” and two handwriting experts, Nola Murphy and Patrick Sealy, Justice Alleyne concluded that the SRLF had not proved its case.
“I am not satisfied that the claimant has proved its case,” the judge said. “Rather, on the evidence adduced, I am persuaded that it is more probable than not that Mr Chase did not sign the document. He has established, to my satisfaction, that he was beyond this jurisdiction on the date that the claimant maintains that it was signed in his name.”
Justice Alleyne also accepted the evidence of handwriting expert Patrick Sealy: “Mr Sealy’s evidence lends credibility to his assertion that the disputed signature is not his.
“I have concluded that the claim against Mr Chase is not statute barred, but the claimant’s failure to establish that Mr Chase signed the disputed document must result in the dismissal of this claim.
“If not him, then who?” the judge asked. “That question may forever lurk in the mind of the curious. It might never have arisen had the claimant required proof of identification from the signer and kept some record of that proof. Therein lies the moral of this case. The claim against Mr Chase is dismissed.”
In 2016, Minister of Education Ronald Jones announced the fund was owed $30 million and the ministry was going after both defaulters and sureties. Later that year, the Fund instituted a name-and-shame campaign where it published the names and addresses of 131 defaulters.
When contacted yesterday about this court action, SRLF attorney Hinkson charged that this case “had nothing to do with the Fund going after people”.
“The court found as a matter of fact that this particular surety didn’t sign the surety document,” he said. “It doesn’t have any implication whatsoever for people not paying back loans. I have given Student Revolving advice on what they need to do to prevent something like that happening again,” Hinkson said without going into details. (MB)