Kendall Marshall, Jacqueline Lockhart and Gwendolyn King, Trustees of Victoria and Alexandra Union Society v Delcina Collie Saunders

CourtSupreme Court (Bahamas)
JudgeMadam Justice G. Diane Stewart
Judgment Date02 June 2022
Docket NumberCOMMON LAW and EQUITY DIVISION 2016/CLE/gen/ 01687
Kendall Marshall, Jacqueline Lockhart and Gwendolyn King, Trustees of Victoria and Alexandra Union Society
Delcina Collie Saunders

The Hon. Madam Justice G. Diane Stewart



Civil — Trustees — Legal and Beneficial Ownership of property


Mr. Michael W. Horton for the Plaintiff Mrs. Bridget Butler for the Defendant


By a Specially Endorsed Writ of Summons filed the 22 nd December, 2016 ( the “Writ of Summons”) the Plaintiffs, who claim to be officers and trustees of the Victoria and Alexandra Union Society ( the “Union Society”) ( the “Plaintiffs”) seek from the Defendant, Delcina Collie Saunders ( the “Defendant”) a declaration that they are the legal owners in fee simple of the lot of land and premises located at the junction of Baillou Hill Road and Dunmore Street ( the “Property”) and that as a result the Defendant is not entitled to enter on the land.


The Plaintiffs also seek, an order that the Defendant deliver up possession of the Property, an injunction to restrain her from remaining in or on or continuing in occupation of the Property, a rental payment of six hundred dollars per month or alternatively mesne profits from the date of service of the Writ of Summons to delivery of possession and damages for trespass.


The Plaintiffs claim that Union Society purchased the Property as recorded by a conveyance dated the 22 nd February 1919 and made between Hester Demeritte and John A. Burnside, Richard H. Smith and John A. Ceruti as Trustees ( the “1919 Conveyance”). They averred that they would regularly hold meetings in a building which had been constructed by the Union Society on the Property. Some years prior to 2006 they leased the building to a number of different individuals and public bodies. The last tenant was the Renaissance Academy, a private high school ( the “Academy”), which paid them six hundred dollars per month in rent.


On 28 th December, 2006, the Defendant wrongfully entered the Property and ousted the Academy and by extension deprived the Plaintiff of the use of the building. This caused them the loss of their records inclusive of deeds and other documents which were stored on the premises. Despite written demands to vacate, the Defendant fails to do so.


The Defendant denies that the individuals named are even the trustees of the Union Society as a pending matter lists other individuals as the trustees. Aside from acknowledging that the Plaintiffs held meetings in the building on the Property, she denies that the Plaintiffs actually own the Property as the Union Society ceased to exist in or about 1969.


By counterclaim, the Defendant claims that by the 1919 Conveyance Hester Demeritte of the one part and John Alexander Adderley, Richard Henry Smith and John Alexander Ceruiti (“ John A. Ceruiti”) (Trustees nominated and appointed) of the other part purchased the Property upon trust for the Union Society. John A. Ceruiti died as the sole surviving trustee.


By a power of attorney dated 4 th December 1995, Gladstone Harcourt Ceruiti granted the Defendant power and authority to manage the Property. By his last will and testament also dated the 4 th December 1995, the Defendant was appointed as the Executrix and sole beneficiary of his estate. A grant of probate was issued thereafter, authorizing the Defendant to administer the estate as confirmed by a Deed of Assent dated 7 th July 2009.


The Defendant alternatively seeks a declaration that she is the legal and beneficial owner of the Property, an order for possession of the Property and an injunction restraining the Plaintiffs, whether by themselves, their servants and or agents from entering the Property.


Kendall Marshall, President and Treasurer of the Union Society since 1987 (“Mr. Marshall”), averred that he succeeded the late Cyril Lockhart and Charles Rhodriquez as President (both deceased). Membership and meetings of the Union Society were dwindling as many members ranged in age from their seventies to their nineties, had declining health and some had passed away.


The initial trustees of the Union Society were Mr. John Alexander Burnside, Mr. Richard Henry Smith and Mr. John Alexander Ceruti. They took the title to the Property in 1919 as trustees on behalf of the Union. The trustees who succeeded them were Marion Johnson, Mable Bogus, Edith B. Laramore, Ms. Andrews and Ms. Maycock. After their deaths they were succeeded by Cyril Lockhart, Senator Charles Rhodriquez, Marion Johnson, Edith B. Laramore and Margaret Adderley.


The last appointed trustees of the Union Society were himself, Jacqueline Lockhart, Minerva Bosfield, Charles Butterfield and Gwendolyn King. Mr. Marshall provided a declaration of trustees dated 18 th December 2007, prepared by Jacqueline Lockhart, which listed the trustees of the Union Society. Two of the trustees died and only himself, Jacqueline Lockhart and Gwendolyn King remained as trustees. The latter two however, were elderly and not in good health.


In addition to leasing the building to the Academy, they also leased the building to a church organized by Pastor Gregory Bethel who held services in the building twice per week and paid a weekly rent of sixty dollars from 1992 to 2002. After the Defendant evicted the Academy, she barred the Union Society and its officers from entering the building.


The ouster by the Defendant left them unable to retrieve any of their receipts or records which would evidence payments received from leasing the building. Additionally, the Union Society had no contact for the proprietress of the Academy nor did it have a current address, despite diligent inquiries. It was believed that the Academy may have ceased operation.


Despite the Union Society's attempts to remove the Defendant from the Property, through their respective counsel, the Defendant unlawfully remained thereon. Their efforts to obtain details of the Department of Labor's use of the Property were unsuccessful. In 1954, not knowing that the 1919 Conveyance had been lodged for recording, they applied to the Supreme Court for an order to vest the Property in the trustees on behalf of the Union Society. The order was granted on 10 th July 1954 and a vesting Deed was issued in July of 1954 (“the 1954 Deed”) which confirms that the Union Society had undisturbed possession since 1904.


The Defendant could not claim to own the Property as the personal representative of Gladstone Ceruti as he never owned the Property which was always in the undisputed ownership of the Union Society until 2006 when the Defendant illegally ousted the Plaintiffs.


During cross examination Mr. Marshall stated that he was a trustee of the Victoria Royal Union, appointed by a letter from Mr. Cyril Lockhart who was the last trustee to die. A document dated 18 th December 2007 was prepared to indicate his appointment and was produced for the action. He could not say whether or not Mr. Ceruti and Mr. Smith appointed any other trustees.


Mr. Marshall stated that he became a member of the Union Society from the age of six months old, entering as a juvenile at eight and then into the general body at sixteen in 1955. The Union Society was formed to help the poor black people in the area. At the time of his birth in 1939, the mortality rate was under six months. If a baby lived past that time, the regulations and rules allowed a baby to be registered once the baby's grandmother, grandfather, mother or father was a member.


The purpose of the Union Society was to financially assist the poor and sick with burials. At the time, the black people were not allowed private nursing. There was only one Victoria Royal Union. The rules of the Union Society exhibited were referred to as amalgamated rules as at one time there were three lodges on Blue Bill Road, The Knights of King George, Victoria Royal Union and the Young Ladies Beautiful Lodge.


The lodges were established to teach women and men how they should act in public but were dissolved before his time however, the Union Society remained. He was not familiar with the Victoria Alexander Union. Mr. Marshall denied that he did not have any proof that the Defendant removed items belonging to the school or the Union Society out of the building. He was informed by the neighbors and when he attended with the police officers he saw the items in the yard.


There were no longer meetings held there although he would periodically check on the premises for the Academy. The ages of the members ranged from 96 to 56 or 57 which prevented them from attending meetings. Sometimes meetings would be held at his house or would be held on the porch of the Union Society building but they did not go inside. The Property is located on the corner of Dunmore Street and Blue Hill Road. The building in question was on the north-western junction of Dunmore and was the same property in the present action.


By the 1954 Deed 6 persons were named as trustees. He was a juvenile member at the time. The trustees held the property of Victoria Royal Union for the benefit of the members. During his time. The Knights of King George and the Royal Victoria Society operated separately. He did not know anything about the Knights of King George's operation.


During re-examination, Mr. Marshall stated that the building was located at the northwestern junction of Dunmore Street and Blue Hill Road. As a juvenile that is where the Union Society met.


Ms. Florita Greene, as a former member and having served as secretary of the Union Society (“Ms. Greene”), under Mr. Charles Rodriguez and Mr. Cyril Lockhart, both deceased past Presidents, averred that she always believed that the Union Society was the owner of the Property. On the Property stood a large wooden...

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