Topic Archives: Litigation & Dispute Resolution

On May 5, 2017, Supreme Court Justice Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the Registrar-General’s decision to reject a marriage application from a same-sex couple was discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, declaring that “same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act”.

The case had been brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche, who took their case to the Supreme Court after the Registrar-General refused to publish their marriage banns, arguing that the Human Rights Act (the “HRA”) took primacy in Bermuda and protected their right to marry. “The facts of this case are relatively simple and straightforward,” Justice Simmons wrote in her introduction. “The Applicants are both male. Each states by affidavit that they met in Canada, the home of the second Applicant, and started dating in 2015. They both love Bermuda, the home of the first Applicant. It is their wish to be married in Bermuda irrespective of their gender as recognition of the feelings that they have for one another.
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In an important decision in November 2016, the Insurance Appeals Tribunal (the “IAT”) published in the press the text of its decision in relation to the jurisdiction to award costs in an appeal from a regulatory decision and appeal to the IAT under the Insurance Act 1978 (the “Act”).

Normally in civil litigation the rule is that costs follow the event, and the substantial winner is entitled to an award of costs representing the costs reasonably incurred in the prosecution or defence of the proceedings. The issue arose after the unsuccessful appeal of a party who had been sanctioned by the Insurance Tribunal as to whether the same general rule applied under the statutory formula , which is worded in a wider and more permissive way, allowing the IAT the power to award costs as it “thinks fit” under section 44 D (1) of the Act.

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This Act was passed in the first quarter of 2016 but has not yet become effective. It is a lengthy Act with a number of separate and detailed statutory mechanisms which work in conjunction with one another. The purpose of the Act is to address a situation where all or part of a bank’s business encounters financial difficulty or is likely to encounter such difficulty. The Act seeks to provide a mechanism for enabling the orderly transfer of the assets of a distressed bank, and the protection of deposit holders’ interests in keeping with international standards.

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The employment tribunal system was established to provide an employee the regime in which to make a formal complaint that their employer has violated the Employment Act 2000 (the “Act”). The process was designed to encourage the parties to settle their differences wherever possible. If the parties cannot reach an agreement and there are reasonable grounds to suggest the employer may have violated the Act, the parties proceed to the Employment Tribunal for a hearing which lacks the sometimes daunting formalities of the courts. The trouble with the process in Bermuda is that over the course of the last several years, the Act has been interpreted in such a way as to limit the role of the Employment Inspectors, pushing many, if not all complaints, through to the Employment Tribunal. This erodes important principles of justice and the pendulum has swung so far toward due process for the employee that parties are no longer on equal footing.

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This Wednesday will see 400 continuous years of sitting of the Supreme Court in Bermuda since it first sat on the 15th June 1616.

Congratulations on behalf of the legal team, managers and staff at MJM Limited!

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