September 1st, 2012

Samoa News

Gov ordered to submit bill to pay Laufou fire judgement

Sources say amount could exceed $8 MIL and counting

The High Court has issued an “alternative writ” directing Gov. Togiola Tulafono to submit for legislative approval, legislation to pay the court judgement of more than $6 million against the American Samoa Government over the fire about a decade ago that destroyed the old Laufou Shopping Center.

The writ was based on a petition filed last week by attorneys for Progressive Insurance Company (Pago Pago) Limited, the insurance company for Laufou.

The writ to respondent Togiola Tulafono, in his capacity as governor, states that it “appears from the verified petition on file in this action that you have failed to perform your legal duty under A.S.C.A 43.1212(c) and that petitioner, the party beneficially interested, has no plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law,” according to the writ dated Aug. 27, signed by Associate Justice Lyle L. Richmond.

(According to the statute, ASCA 43.1212 titled “Payment of judgment or settled claim” and subsection (c), which states that, if any claim is allowed, settlement made or judgment rendered in excess of $25,000, the governor shall forward legislation appropriating funds for the payment of such amount to the Legislature, at its next regular session, for action. Additionally, the Treasurer is authorized to pay such amount as may be appropriated there-for by the Legislature.)

“Therefore, you are commended on or before Sept. 7, 2012, to forward legislation to the Legislature appropriating funds for the payment of petitioner’s judgement” in the amount of $6 million plus post-judgement interest at 6% from July 24, 2007 to the date of payment.

In the alternative, to show cause before the court on Sept. 14, 2012 “why you have not done so,” the order states.

How much the government will have to pay in total including the post judgement remains unclear but some in the legal community told Samoa News that it is probably over $8 million and counting.

The FY 2013 budget under Special Program budget category appropriates only $1 million for this case, which government calls in the budget document a post judgement case involving tort claims for the fire that destroyed the old Laufou, and following an appeal that vacated a judgement of $6.6 million, the Trial Division of the High Court entered a new judgement for the same amount.

ASG is presently appealing this second judgement but believes it will be prudent to set aside funds to pay the judgement if the Appellate court rules against ASG and therefore $1 million is sought in the budget document.

Progressive’s petition came after the Trial Court earlier this month which denied the government’s motion to alter or amend the judgement in this case. (See details in Aug. 9th edition of Samoa News)


Early Sullivan obtained the judgment and writ.