Lawyers for former deputy Prime Minister, Herbert Preudhomme has filed appeal papers aimed at setting aside a high court judgement in a land transaction involving millions of dollars.
Preudhomme was able to receive as a gift a lot of land in the Grand Anse area from his one-time friend, the late Joshua Thorne who like the former government minister was a member of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP).
The transfer of the lands was challenged in court by one of Thorne’s daughter who claimed that her father was not of sound mind when the transaction took place.
High Court judge, Justice Margaret Price-Findlay ruled against the arguments put forward by defense lawyers – Dr. Francis Alexis and Reynold Benjamin – who appeared on behalf of Preudhomme.
The team of Ian Sandy, Claudette Joseph and Teddy St. Louis were able to win Round One in the contest. A date is still to be announced for the hearing of the appeal in the case.
As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces Part 11 of the Price-Findlay ruling, which first appeared in last week’s issue of the newspaper:
I note that there was no evidence that the First Defendant was one of the persons who accompanied Joshua Thorne to the Bank. There is evidence that he took Mr. Thorne to the Bank from George Ferguson.
She further stated that the land her father gifted to the First Defendant was land that he had said he would never get rid of. He made this statement in her presence. She never heard him say that that piece of land was for ‘his partner Herbie’.
Herbert Preudhomme – at the centre of the dispute over the land
When Dr. Herry Thompson saw her father in 2001, she said that there was no treatment for dementia and that she should not allow her father to drive. She admitted that the report of Dr. Herry Thompson dated 2001 does not state that her father was extremely forgetful, that term was used for the first time in the report dated 19th August 2005 from Dr. Herry Thompson.
She also admitted that when Dr. Spencer saw her father in 2005, he used the term ‘short term memory poor’, not extremely forgetful.
She took him to the doctor in 2005 because she intended to institute guardianship proceedings and needed the report for the proceedings.
Dr. Emma Herry Thompson is a medical practitioner in Grenada. She runs the Sea Island Medical Clinic in St. George’s. She specialised in internal medicine and completed her studies in 1987. She practiced in Washington DC, USA, from 1987 to 1988 and from 1993-1997 in Beaufort, South Carolina, and from 1990-1993 she was Medical Director of Magnolia Manor in Georgia, USA.
She testified that as an internist, she is able to discern diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. She knew Joshua Thome, he was her patient. He attended her clinic in May 2001, and on several occasions thereafter.
Her report of her findings dated 19th August, 2005 was before the Court.
She found that Mr. Thome’s short-term memory to be extremely poor and he was suffering from dementia.
During his two visits, that is 15th May and 15th June 2001, she found that he was extremely forgetful and his cognitive functions were impaired.
She opined that the stroke that he had suffered five years previous could have contributed to his forgetfulness since the blood supply to his brain would have been compromised.
She conducted an MMSE test, a universally accepted test to identify cognitive
function impairment associated with dementia.
The land that was once owned by Joshua Thorne
The score of 11 which Mr. Thorne attained placed him in the category of moderate dementia but at the lower end of that scale. Expected decline in un-treated Alzheimer’s patients is 2-4 points per year.
There is no evidence of whether Mr. Thorne ever received any treatment for his condition. Neither Dr. Herry Thompson nor Dr. Spencer testified as to prescribing or administering any treatment to Mr. Thome.
She goes on to testify that using the lower end of the scale that by 2004 he would have had a score of 5 and using the higher end a score of -1. Both scores would have placed him in the severe dementia category, in a condition whereby he would have no appreciation of what he was doing.
In her opinion, it is highly improbable that in 2001 someone at Mr. Thorne’s level of mental impairment could have understood the nature and effect of the Deed of Gift which gave the property in question to the First Defendant, far less in 2004.
Having looked at the Certificate of Independent Legal Advice, 22, 27 January 2004, she opined that it is highly improbable that someone at the lever of mental impairment at which Mr. Thorne was in 2001 could have understood the nature and effect of the legal advice given to him.
She further opined that it was highly improbable that Mr. Thorne could have understood or appreciated the nature and content of the Deed of Gift he executed on 27th January 2004. His cognitive functions being impaired in 2001 would not have improved in January 2004.
In cross-examination she said that the August 2005 report exhibited is a summary of the records she had in her office relating to Mr. Thorne. The summary was prepared after the fact.
She admitted that she had not exhibited any documents prior to August 2005 which stated that Mr. Thorne was extremely forgetful.
The 2005 report was done to establish Mr. Thorne’s competence. His daughter asked for the report with respect to a land transaction.
She recalled on one of the visits to her clinic telling the Claimant that systems should be put in place to ensure Mr. Thorne’s nutritional needs were met, and to avoid exploitation. This is advice she gives Alzheimer’S patients or those with dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a form of cognitive impairment and is treatable to an extent. But before she could recommend treatment she has to be convinced that the benefits would outweigh the risks.
She was not told that the report she produced was to be used in court proceedings, she only realised that sometime later. She was frustrated when the attorney came to her office. It was then that she realised that it was a litigious process.
She further states that it was not unusual for a doctor to take one view of the mental condition of a patient and a layperson to have the opposite view.
The next witness was George Ferguson. He is the son of Joshua Thorne. He testified that he and his father had a good relationship. He would take him for drives and he visited him daily but he did not live with him.
He took care of his father’s land around the home where Mr. Thorne lived, which comprised of approximately 5 acres. After the death of his father’s wife in 2001, he noticed that his father was getting increasingly forgetful. He would forget the day, the time, or where he was. He would speak to persons and then ask who they were.
After 2001, his father could hardly recall anything at all. Both Dr. Spencer and Dr. Herry Thompson saw him as a result of his condition. Both determined that he was suffering from senile dementia.
In 2005 he became aware that his father had transferred lands to the Defendants and that they were using the land to obtain a sizeable loan. After inquiring he realised that his father had been signing legal documents and giving his property to other people.
He told the Claimant what he had discovered. She confirmed what she had been told. His father had transferred 1 acre 1 Rood and 16 poles of land to the Defendants. It was valued at EC$2,OOO,OOO.00.
The First Defendant and his father were friends, and members of the same political party. The First Defendant was a frequent visitor to his father’s home and spent lots of time with his father. His father placed trust and confidence in the First Defendant.
The First Defendant would take his father to the beach, the bank, the doctor and to cash his treasury bonds. He observed that his father would sign blank cheques at the direction of the First Defendant to pay bills and purchase groceries. The First Defendant would write the cheques and his father would sign them.
He admitted that his father paid him for the work he did on his father’s land. The First Defendant would come on Fridays and make out the cheques. His father would tell the Defendant what amount to write.
He said that the First Defendant stopped visiting his father in late 2004 but admitted that due to Hurricane Ivan his father had to move from his home. After the hurricane his father stayed at the Wave Crest so that it was impossible for the First Defendant to visit his father at home. His father then went to stay at South Winds.
The First Defendant visited Mr. Thorne at Wave Crest 3-4 days per week. He knew that the First Defendant took his father to the doctor in 2001 with his caretaker, Ms. Banfield. He went once with his father to Dr. Herry Thompson and that was in 2004.
He stated that it was the First Defendant and the caretaker/companion Ms. Banfield who usually took his father to the doctor. He did not know why his father was taken to Dr. Thompson for in 2001. He knew his father to have a heart condition but he never asked why he was taken to the doctor.
He brought Dr. Spencer to see his father in 2005, this was the first time Dr. Spencer saw his father as far as he knew. Dr. Evelyn Spencer, the House Officer at Mt. Gay Psychiatric Hospital. also gave evidence.
He has been attached to the Mt. Gay faculty for 10 years and had been practising medicine for 13 years at the time of his witness statement.
He has done several short courses both regionally and internationally in the field of Psychiatry. For the previous 10 years he has practiced almost exclusively in that area.
He saw Mr. Thorne in late 2004 at the Wave Crest apartments. He was brought to see him by his son, George Ferguson. Having observed Mr. Thorne he formed the opinion that he was demented. He found him extremely forgetful and within minutes would forget what was said to him. He opined that his cognitive functions were much depressed.
He knew Joshua Thorne as a boy growing up as an astute, quick-witted man, a politician. What he saw in late 2004 was a shadow of the man he once knew. His mental capacity was severely impaired
He again saw Mr. Thorne in 2005 in September, and he conducted a mental status examination. He found him oriented only to person but not place or time. His short-term memory was poor and he could not recall his (Dr. Spencer’s) name even though they were introduced and his name was repeated twice during the time he was there.
He failed the Serial 7’s test and his powers of registration and recall were decreased. He formed the opinion that Mr. Thorne was suffering from
senile dementia, which is a form of brain disorder characterised by progressive and irreversible mental deterioration.
Mr. Thorne could not do a complete mental state examination. Mr. Thorne would have been suffering with the disease for a number of years prior to his examination.
In his professional opinion, Mr. Thorne, at the time of the execution of the Deed of Gift, would not have been able to understand the nature and content of the document which he executed.
He further opined that Mr. Thorne would not have possessed the necessary cognitive skills to make any informed decision relative to the Deed of Gift.
At the September 2005 visit Mr. Thorne did not recognise his daughter, his son-in-law or his sister, all of whom were present. Mr. Thorne would not have been able to understand the Certificate of Legal Advice even if it had been read and re-read to him. Mr. Thorne could hear the Deed being read to him but that is all.
If Mr. Thorne’s power of registration and recall was zero as he opined, it would have been at the time, he could not have really understood and processed in his mind what was being asked of him.
Mr. Thorne would not have understood the consequences of giving away his property by Deed of Gift. He shared Dr. Thompson’s opinion of the effect of the stroke on Mr. Thorne’s cognitive function.
In cross-examination, he admitted that we all have memory lapses. He saw Mr. Thorne for about half an hour at the Wave Crest Hotel and this is the only time he spent with Mr. Thorne professionally, and that he was comfortable to conclude what he testified to after spending that time with Mr. Thorne.
He testified that he was of the view that the memory loss would take about 3-4 years to develop. He felt that Mr. Thorne’s memory loss started in or about 2000-2001. He did not think that in 2001 Mr. Thome could have understood legal documents.
He looked at several documents executed by Mr. Thorne dated between 2001-2003 and gave the opinion that various attestation clauses on these documents could not be true based on his assessment of Mr. Thorne.
He admitted that he had made a psychiatric assessment of Mr. Thorne even though he is not a psychiatrist. He opined that when Mr. Thorne went to the Bank with his daughter the Claimant in September/October 2004. Mr. Thorne could
not have known what he was doing.
He agreed with Dr. Thompson that medical practitioners say persons are forgetful but lay-persons see it differently. In cases such as these he would say that the lay people are wrong. A lay person can reasonably take a different view of the mental capacity of a person to that of a lay person.
He admitted that he took notes of his visits with Mr. Thorne but said it was unfortunate that he did not have those notes with him to present to the Court.
He did not recommend that Mr. Thorne be admitted to a psychiatric facility in 2004 because he saw no need for urgent treatment at that time. He also testified that it would have been reasonable for both the Deputy Registrar and Mr. Stewart and others to say that Mr. Thorne looked alright to them.
There were certain aspects which one would aim to identify when doing an assessment
(a). The person’s short-term memory
(b). Their ability to register and recall new information
(c). The ability to organise and plan
He also testified that despite his cognitive deterioration Mr. Thorne would probably have had lucid moments.
The Defendants called two witnesses, the First Defendant and Mr. Nigel Stewart, the attorney who gave Mr. Thorne the independent legal advice with respect to the Deed of Gift in question.
Mr. Herbert Preudhomme testified that he met Joshua Thorne in1943 and they became very good friends and remained so until Joshua Thorne’s death. This fact is not disputed.
At the time they first met Mr. Preudhomme was better off financially than Thome. Preudhornme stated that he was very generous to Thorne and his other friends. He sponsored a party for Thorne’s birthday in 1944. Shortly after this, Thorne took Preudhomme to live with him at Thorne’s sister’s home, after Preudhomme had been in a serious accident.
Preudhomme later went to the hospital for 6 months and Thorne visited him and cut his hair. The relationship continued, and over the years the two men exchanged favours and kindness between themselves.
In 1958, Preudhomme entered the political arena, and Thorne, who had by then married, assisted him in his campaigns. Preudhomme was a successful politician and was a Member of Parliament from 1958-1979 when events took over Grenada and his days as a parliamentarian came to an end.
Preudhomme was a Minister of Government holding various portfolios and was Deputy Prime Minister at some point. While a Minister, Preudhomme introduced Thorne to one D.B. Cromwell who was the Managing Director of Grand Anse EstatesLimited, and recommended that Thorne be made a director of the said company.
As a result of this directorship, Thorne was able to become the owner of lands forming part of the Grand Anse Estate. He testified that over the years Thorne expressed gratitude to him for introducing him to the Company (Grand Anse Estates Ltd.)and promised to give Preudhomme a piece of land.
He testified that Thorne suffered a stroke in 1986/1987, and that he took him to a clinic in Venezuela, and upon his return to Grenada he took him to the beach regularly. He also, at Thorne’s request accompanied him to the Miami Memorial Hospital for treatment to his eyes.
He said he accompanied Thorne to the doctor here in Grenada on several occasions at Thorne’s request. He also assisted him with his banking business and any other transaction in which Thorne sought his assistance. He insisted that he acted on Thorne’s direction and did not exercise any independent judgment or discretion in doing so.
In January 2004, on Thorne’s instructions, he took him to the office of Ovid Gill, Thorne’s lawyer because he wanted to fulfill his promise to transfer a piece of the land at Grand Anse to Preudhomme.
Preudhomme did as he was asked and Thorne gave Gill the instructions to prepare the conveyance. I pause here to note that there is no evidence before the Court to suggest that Ovid Gill was ever the lawyer for or had ever acted on behalf of Mr. Preudhomme.
Mr. Gill had acted for Thorne prior to January 2004, he had made Thorne’s will and acodicil. Mr. Gill advised Thorne that he should get independent legal advice prior to executing the Deed of Gift in favour of Preudhomme. Mr. Gill suggested someone from the firm of Renwick &Payne.
Mr. Thorne instructed the clerk to call Mr. Stewart from Renwick and Payne. Mr. Stewart came to the office of Ovid Gill and spoke to Thorne there. He could see Mr. Stewart and Thorne speaking and that is when he came to know that Mr. Stewart was advising Thorne.
The conversation took place away from him somewhere in Mr. Gill’s office. He could not hear what was being said. He further testified that to his knowledge Mr. Nigel Stewart spoke to Mr. Thorne and advised him on the matter.
He testified that at the time Thorne executed the Deed of Gift on 24th January 2004, he was aware of what he was doing and he fully understood the nature and effect of his act. Thorne had acted voluntary and was merely fulfilling the promise he had made to Preudhomme all those years ago.
In cross-examination he went on to testify that he visited Thorne regularly over the years and he knew the members of the household, including Jeselle Thorne, Thorne’s adopted daughter. He admitted that Jeselle would have been a good witness as to Thorne’s condition over the years but he did not get a witness statement from her.
He reiterated that Thorne had promised him land over 25 years prior to him doing so. He said he did not know why Thorne waited so long before doing so. He said that Thorne was a man who did what he wanted, no one dictated to Thorne what he should do.
He did not know that Thorne only came to own the land he gave him by the Deed of Gift in 2000. He knew Thorne owned lands in Grand Anse because Thorne and D.B. Cromwell were members of the Grand Anse Co-op Farm Ltd.
He admitted that he had failed to mention this entity in his witness statement. He insisted that the Deed of Gift was made by Mr. Gill on Thorne’s instruction. He said he knew Mr. Gill as a lawyer practicing in Grenada.
Thorne and he were very good friends for many years. They did things for each other whenever Thorne asked him to do something he would do it, whether it was taking him to the doctor or to the Bank.
He testified that Thorne trusted and confided in him. Thorne asked him to write out cheques for him and he did so, but Thorne not he signed them. He denied assisting Thorne to fill out withdrawal slips at the bank.
He readily admitted to visiting Thorne more regularly after Thorne’s wife Alma died in 2000. His friend was alone, he went to see him and keep him company.
He recalled seeing the Claimant at Thorne’s home after 2001, but he could not recall when he first met her. He would visit Thorne at least once a week, but if Thorne needed him and called for him he would go.
He knew Ivy Banfield, she was Thorne’s caretaker. She would sometimes call him to come to see Thorne. Between 2000-2001, he would accompany Thorne for his visits to the doctor. Thorne was seeing Dr. Herry Thompson and Dr. Noel at the time. Dr. Noel was the heart doctor.
(To be continued)