Court of Appeal Rules Against Plaintiff in IT Contract Dispute

Author: Dr Damien Degiorgio and Dr Ramona Galea
Published: 19th January 2024
Litigation Unit

 

James L. Hawkins V. Seasus Limited (C29821) (269/2015/1 LM)-Court of Appeal (superior jurisdiction) decided on the 18.01.2023

 

The Court of Appeal (superior jurisdiction) recently decided the above mentioned case, relative to the execution of a contract for the creation of a web-site, by dismissing the plaintiff’s appeal, and confirming the decision of the Civil Court, First Hall, whilst also declaring that the plaintiff’s appeal was frivolous.

The First Hall had established that Seasus Limited, a company trading in the IT sector, had acted in good faith and diligently in the execution of the contract between the parties. In fact the Court of first instance, had not only refused the plaintiff’s arguments to the contrary, but had also condemned the plaintiff to pay the fees which were still due in respect of the execution of the contract.

In coming to its conclusions, the Honourable Court of Appeal considered that whereas the general rule should be that contra scriptum testimonium, feritur, (a written agreement, may not be contradicted by oral arguments) this principle was not absolute and there existed certain exceptions, as described in the case decided by the same court on the 27.09.2019, in the names Eden Hospitality Limited v. S.I.T:

  • The agreement is vitiated by fraud or by a defect of form;
  • The agreement is simulated;
  • The agreement does not clearly reflect the understanding between the parties;
  • When a point which is accessory or incidental to the agreement arises and needs to be proven, if this is not reconcilable with the main agreement; and
  • When there is a further oral agreement between the parties which affects the execution of the written agreement;

In considering these exceptions, the Honourable Court of Appeal deemed that the principle that held that when the agreement does not clearly reflect the understanding between the parties, oral evidence may be taken into consideration, was applicable to the case under examination and whilst going through the voluminous evidence presented by the parties, also determined that the plaintiff’s attempt to, amongst others, recover the alleged loss of significant profits, was frivolous.

Fenech Farrugia Fiott Legal represented Seasus Limited in the proceedings.

 

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