Gymnastics Federation: Dismiss that $11.2 million Thema lawsuit

Flashback: Thema Williams, left, and a member of her legal team, Emile Crowne. (trinidadexpress.com)

The Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) is seeking to have the multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against it by national gymnast Thema Williams dismissed, even before the matter proceeds to trial at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain.

Williams is suing the TTGF for $11.2 million for loss of opportunity after the Federation withdrew her last April from the Olympic Games Test event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and replaced her with alternate Marisa Dick. Dick, who was born in Canada to a Trinidadian mother, eventually qualified for the Olympics in the artistic gymnastics event.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit which came up for hearing before High Court judge Justice Frank Seepersad yesterday are four TTGF members including its president David Marquez, Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and Donna Lue Shue.

Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and other attorneys representing the TTGF are seeking to have the matter dismissed, as they contend that the High Court is not the proper forum for the dispute to be heard and resolved. They raised a preliminary issue at a previous hearing, and argued that Clause Four of the Athlete’s agreement caters for a dispute resolution with a tribunal within the TTGF itself and not before the High Court.

At Monday’s hearing, Senior Counsel Martin Daly, who along with attorneys Keith Scotland and Reza Ramjohn are representing Williams, stated that he wished to file a reply to the TTGF’s contention.

As such, Justice Seepersad proceeded to set various dates over the next three months for the filing and serving of submissions by the attorneys. The judge will deliver his ruling on the issue on April 25.

“If the first defendant (TTGF) is correct, then we have to mash brakes and go elsewhere,” said Seepersad.

Williams was replaced by the TTGF after her coach, John Geddert, revealed that she had a sore ankle and criticised her performance in training in an emailed report on April 15, 2016. He later claimed that his words were taken out of context.

Williams’ attorneys filed the lawsuit, alleging that the Federation breached its contract with their client. They are arguing that she could only have been removed from the competition by the head of delegation after consultation with her coach and relevant medical personnel but those consultations never took place.

They are further alleging that Williams had a legitimate expectation that the TTGF would act in good faith and in an unbiased manner but that expectation was not met.

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