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Thema sues for $11.3 million! TTGF officials served pre-action protocol letters

What dollar value would you place on the trauma of being robbed the chance to compete at the Olympic Games?

Photo: Thema Williams of Trinidad And Tobago competes on the uneven bars during the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 October 2015. (Copyright AFP 2016/Andy Buchanan)
Photo: Thema Williams of Trinidad And Tobago competes on the uneven bars during the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow, Scotland, on 23 October 2015.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Andy Buchanan)

For 20 year old gymnast Thema Williams, it is worth TT$10 million. And Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) president David Marquez, first vice president Akil Wattley, second vice president Ricardo Lue and his wife and assistant treasurer Donna Lue Shue, have 10 days to pay that figure plus the cost of a scholarship to Michigan State University—which she turned down to chase her Olympic dream—or face action in the local High Court.

The total sum requested of Marquez, Wattley and the Lue Shues, which was sent to the officials this week via pre-action protocol letters, is TT$11,385,384.00 (US$1.7 million), exclusive of legal costs.

Williams’ legal action is spearheaded by attorney Keith Scotland with Martin Daly SC as leading counsel.

“Having conferred with the learned senior counsel and after our research in the matter,” Scotland told Wired868. “It is our respectful view that the action perpetrated against our client justifies a certain amount of punitive damages…

“I think we can agree that competing at the Olympic Games is a chance of a lifetime. And the cynical way it was taken away from Thema Williams warrants this sort of financial request.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right). (Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right).
(Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

The TTGF is represented by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, although it is not clear whether the high profile attorney will individually represent the quartet of gymnastics officials. Wired868 was unable to reach the four officials.

Pointedly, Scotland said Williams’ legal team did not accept that the TTGF’s council members were lawfully able to hold their respective posts, due to alleged breaches of the gymnastics body’s constitution.

“We have certain information, which suggests that the provisions of Article 6 of the TTGF’s Constitution—regarding holding office for two years and for one term only, as well as the obligations included in that constitution with respect to the holding of annual general meetings—may have been violated,” stated Scotland’s legal document. “I also reserve my Client’s position regarding the TTGF’s compliance with the Registration of Clubs Act Chapter 21:01.”

The dispute between the respective parties centres around the TTGF’s controversial withdrawal of Williams from the Rio 2016 Olympic Test event, on the eve of the April 17 competition. She was replaced by her alternate, Marisa Dick.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Marisa Dick (right) wave to the crowd during the Opening Ceremony of the Toronto 2015 Pan-American Games at Rogers Stadium, Toronto on July 2015. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Marisa Dick (right) wave to the crowd during the Opening Ceremony of the Toronto 2015 Pan-American Games at Rogers Stadium, Toronto on July 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The TTGF said its decision to replace its qualified gymnast was taken on the back of an email from Williams’ coach, John Geddert, which said, among other things, that she was “nursing an injured ankle.”

“We are sincerely concerned for her health and cannot risk further injury,” stated a TTGF release on Saturday April 16.

However, Geddert subsequently claimed that the gymnastics federation took his words out of context—and with malicious intent—while a medical check-up allegedly cleared Williams within hours.

The TTGF’s action was also allegedly in breach of its contract with Williams, which suggested that she could only be excused from the Test event after consultation between the head coach, head of delegation, relevant medical personnel and the athlete herself.

The pre-action protocol letter described Williams’ withdrawal as “hasty, unfair and unconscionable” and claimed that the officials: “acted unlawfully and/or without lawful authority and/or in breach of fundamental justice and/or have treated my client unfairly and/or in breach of the contracts and/or membership rights.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick (centre) talks to Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) first vice-president Akil Wattley (right) at a local gymnastics meet at the Tacarigua Indoor Sporting Facility on 23 April 2016. Looking on (bottom left) is Dick's mother, Hannifer Dick. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick (centre) talks to Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) first vice-president Akil Wattley (right) at a local gymnastics meet at the Tacarigua Indoor Sporting Facility on 23 April 2016.
Looking on (bottom left) is Dick’s mother, Hannifer Dick.
(Courtesy Wired868)

The legal document primarily used emails and What’s App messages to build a case of bias, conflict of interest, and surreptitious and unreasonable behaviour by the four TTGF officials. And an email from Wattley, which referred to Williams as “unsportswomanlike”, was said to have demonstrated ill feeling and bias against the former St Joseph’s Convent (Port of Spain) student and Tots and Tumblers gymnast.

If successful, Williams’ case can be a landmark action in holding sport administrators personally accountable for their actions.

(The Thema Move)

Excerpt:

As a result of the wrongdoing of all of you set out above my Client has:

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international gymnast Thema Williams. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago international gymnast Thema Williams.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

(a) Suffered psychological damage and significant associated stress, the full effects of which may yet unfold further;

(b) Suffered the huge loss of opportunity to be an Olympian, and an Olympian of historic stature as the first Olympic gymnast from Trinidad and Tobago and the lifelong opportunity for endorsements, motivational speaking engagements and related business opportunities.

(c) Suffered damage to her reputation, humiliation and embarrassment, both nationally and internationally, particularly having regard to the predominance of social media.

As compensation for the above my Client is entitled to very substantial general damages.

My client has also suffered special damage, some of which is still being quantified. As a result of the breaches of contract and other matters complained of above she has already suffered the loss of the opportunity of a scholarship as particularised below:

My Client did not proceed with an offer for the award of a four-year gymnastics scholarship at the prestigious Michigan State University to fill an open spot immediately for the fall semester 2014.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams performs a handstand at John Geddert's Twistars Gymnastics Club in Michigan. (Courtesy Thema Williams)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams performs a handstand at John Geddert’s Twistars Gymnastics Club in Michigan.
(Courtesy Thema Williams)

This scholarship was worth approximately $216,460 USD ($1,385,384 TTD) and my Client claims this sum as special damages.

Outline:

Tuition and Fees: $37,912.00 USD

Room and Board: $10,412.00 USD

Books and Supplies: $1,068.00 USD

Personal Expenses: $2,648.00 USD

Medical: $2,075,00 USD

Total Per Year: $54,115.00 USD

Total over 4 years: $216,460.00 USD (1,385,384.00 TTD)

I also advise that having regard to all the above, my Client will be entitled to declaratory reliefs from the High Court confirming that actions of the TTGF were mala fide and/or unfair and/or unreasonable and/ or arbitrary.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (centre) is flanked by (from left) Tots and Tumblers gymnastics club owner Annette Telfer and attorneys Keith Scotland, Dr Emir Crowne and Resa Ramjohn at a press conference on 27 April 2016 at the Virtus Chambers in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (centre) is flanked by (from left) Tots and Tumblers gymnastics club owner Annette Telfer and attorneys Keith Scotland, Dr Emir Crowne and Resa Ramjohn at a press conference on 27 April 2016 at the Virtus Chambers in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Wired868)

In light of the foregoing, I call upon you the TTGF and/or you Ricardo Lue Shue and/or you Donna Lue Shue and/or you David Marquez and/or you Akil Wattley within ten (10) days of the date to pay to my Client the total sum of TT$11,385,384.00 comprising the said TT$1,385,384 the special damages claimed together with the sum of $10,000,000.00 general damages and/or aggravated and/or exemplary damages, exclusive of legal costs.

For the avoidance of all doubt, the basis of my Client’s claim in aggravated and/or exemplary damages is that your wrongdoing was conscious and/or outrageous and/or cruel, completely unmindful as to the consequences for a young person aged 20, bidding to be an Olympian in historic circumstances, an opportunity that is age related and sensitive to the four-year Olympic cycle.

Your conduct may alternatively also be categorised as harsh and oppressive and has caused damage to my Client, which cannot be satisfied by an award of compensatory damage alone.

I have advised my Client that she is entitled to an award of exemplary damages because justice to her is not likely to be seen to be done without it.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation second vice president and former president Ricardo Lue Shue (left) shakes hands with SPORTT Company official Anthony Creed. Lue Shue will act as Marisa Dick's coach in Brazil. (Courtesy SPORTT)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation second vice president and former president Ricardo Lue Shue (left) shakes hands with SPORTT Company official Anthony Creed.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

I am further of the view that insofar as the actions of you, Ricardo and/or you Donna Lue Shue and/or you David Marquez and/or you Akil Wattley, as agents of the TTGF and/or on your own behalf were calculated to provide to Ms Dick and by extension yourselves an opportunity for profit.

This too entitles my Client to claim exemplary damages from you.

If no satisfactory response is received to this letter within 10 days of its date as requested above, my Client shall initiate proceedings in the High Court of Justice without further notice to you.

Please be guided accordingly.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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209 comments

  1. I hope she gets most of this money. They were too nasty

  2. And he is there 17 yrs now so he deserves more than.dat u ever serve d country.to get dat girl

  3. Well my brother is a police officer and if anything happens to him in the line of duties I want his.family get.11 million okkk

  4. Kwasi Robinson i understand your thinking. however if i was in government then I would let the court matter play out and if she doesn’t get compensation then i would off her some redress from thr state eg a full scholarship, plus some income eg UTC shares, and a job within the state or private sector. it is too early for the state to enter otherwise the expectation will be that thr state will/should always intervene.

  5. In life you make decisions and sacrifices. Not because you attempt means you will get through, and the benefit of her success would have been two fold, for us and her. She was denied by the private governing body, in what appears to be a wrong manner , so now she is seeking compensation through legal and just means

  6. She did give up a scholarship.

  7. So in trying to serve she has been left out in the cold.

  8. So her contribution as a Trinidadian should be for guaranteed fame or monitary gain? The government’s purse is not a tax dollar piggy bank to break open every time some private organization wrongs a citizen. That mentality has to change if we are to move away from such heavy state dependency and treating those in power as parents rather than responsibly elected leaders

  9. She didn’t come back to win for them she came here to win for us… That’s $11 per citizen… Or less.. we all failed her.

  10. So when the individuals file bankruptcy and cannot pay? The moral victory should be enough for the young girl? Of course we should sue the individuals… But when they claim they can’t pay which they will if and when they don’t win the case. I say the state pay and prevent them from all sporting organizations and then maybe we will all take stock of how our institutions are managed… There aren’t Martians doing these things.. It’s Trinidadians

  11. As a tax payer I don’t agree. We cannot have governments encouraging the “gimme gimme” or “running to mommy/daddy” safety net. Let her and the TTGF have their day in court and settle this private matter privately

  12. Hope she is successful.. She deserves much more tho..

  13. If I heard right, they will be sueing the board on a personal level, so they won’t be able to hide behind the protection of the board….there should be some accountability from peoples and institutions

    • Didn’t the PP Govt try suing Board members for hundreds of millions lost and were criticised for it?
      In the case of Malcolm Jones, billions lost and somebody stopped it. Then Al Rawi says the Board stopped it, the Chairman said he doesn’t know about it and no one has produced the minutes of the meeting. One big mystery.

  14. Frivolous! I can’t believe that intelligent attorneys are claiming on those grounds. Are they trying to scare someone for money? Ramesh Maharaj will have a field day with this, and i look forward to hearing the findings of the court.

    Firstly, there was no Olympic place, there was a right to qualify for the olympics; they are two different things, as such Thema was never denied an Olympic place.

    Second, there was no contract for Thema to give up her scholarship, it was a choice she made outside of a contract. She was not given a promise of a place, nor had a legitimate expectation to be an Olympian as it was not within the remit of the TTGA to grant Olympic spots. their remit stopped at the point of choosing who will be recommended to the TTOC.

    There may be a case of breach of contract, but certainly not $11 million worth. The lawyers may have shot themselves in their feet by raising the issue of illegality, as, if the board members were not supposed to be there, their decisions would have been void anyway, and as such, legally there was no TTGA, which then cannot be sued for making a ‘wrong’ decision as all decisions made would have been void. Unless, there was something in practice or writing that allowed members to be part of the TTGA regardless of the constitution, the recent PSA case upheld this.

    Misters Scotland and Daly may be using emotional hype to argue their case, but a judge will not base their finding on emotionalism.

  15. Nelson Luther Ghandi

    THEMA SUES

    Some Radio Talk Show Hosts(RATSH) are still suggesting that Thema had a SERIOUS injury to her ankle(not disclosed to the TTGF until the eve of the Test Event) and, therefore, could not have been competitive at the Test Event, in Rio. Where is the evidence? That notwithstanding, Usain Bolt recently won a race, a few days after suffering a HAMSTRING injury. Most athletes have to work through/around pain and niggling injuries; it is par for the course. Notice the number of athletes wearing bandages at sporting events.

    Some RATSH are also suggesting that Thema’s withdrawal was based on the report from her coach. Did the coach recommend her withdrawal? Was a SERIOUS effort made to contact her coach for his recommendation prior to taking a decision to withdraw Thema? What attempt was made to contact Thema and give her the opportunity to defend herself prior to taking a decision to withdraw her from the Test Event in Rio. Moreover, she could have contacted her coach and her doctors for the TTGF, as it was in her best interest to do so. I wonder what, if any, is the relationship, familial or otherwise, between some RATSH and the Lue Shues’?

    Some of these RATSH are very impressed with the ‘Dick- move’, and are very comfortable with Ms. Dick’s selection.

    One caller to a Radio Talk Show(RATS) feels that Thema should forget the whole thing and move on with her life! With that attitude, Slavery/ Racial Segregation/Apartheid would not have been abolished! Please emancipate yourself from MENTAL SLAVERY!

    Thema, you have my full support! Go after all of them! Let justice prevail!

    NELSON LUTHER GHANDI

  16. Great going Thema. The whole country is with you. However I am having a serious problem with my tax dollars going to Marisa via the TTOC who must also be held accountable for this fiasco. No support for them.

  17. 15m is a better figure when you think about someone career/ dream being DESTROYED by incompetent people who were there to get Free rides to majoe events , This will set precident in LAW and allow other persons to sue as NGBOhave destroyed 95% of Good T&T athletes

  18. Curious how she came up with that number…

  19. It is going to be rather difficult for persons representing an official organization to be sued in their personal capacity….but let’s see where the case goes….very interesting indeed.

    • That wasn’t personal, that was a national faux pas. Our medal is at stake in these Olympics in this discipline of gymnastics. When they made the decision to push Miss Williams aside that was a disaster of national proportion.

  20. I’d like to see them take the FIG to the Court of Arbitration for Sport too.

  21. GREAT!!!!!! Sue down to they underwear

  22. Let justice be done ,this should be a lesson to others

  23. What madness. . 11.5 million ?????

  24. Lasana Liburd, so let’s say Thema wins this case (hope she does) and the ppl she’s suing don’t have the money what happens then? I’m just asking for my knowledge.

  25. It good for dem! Make them pay every cent and out of their own dam pockets too!

  26. Doesn’t this still have to go to court?

  27. She needs to include another party who did not give a dick about her in that lawsuit

  28. Isn’t tnt a sweet place ……look how our tax dollars going to be spent on a topless fool cause by an illiterate sports bench. ….. we the hard working tax payers will have to foot the bill …..monkey can’t run nothing …..the white man put them in chains the minute he laid eyes on them …….this weekend was a big sports event ….tru monkeys it cancelled

  29. If this suit succeeds people could end up losing their most valuable assets

  30. Wow….and she gave up a scholarship to Michigan State for the Olympics …..they have got to be held accountable for their actions…..

  31. An athlete has to do what she has to do.

  32. Seeing that Marisa Dick and her mother could control the TTGF let Marisa and she shameless mother pay for it ….on a serious note i really hope taxpayers money ent jump ur in TTGA b.s.

  33. .assuming she has a good chance if winning this case in court..couple of millions..then we shall see which members of the Fed have that kind of dinero…

  34. Those TTGF individuals have a lot to answer for, especially their very clear and in the record bias.

  35. I just want to know where the cash will be coming from to pay. TT GF has already relieved this nation of pride and hope, I don’t want them to take a cent of tax payers money to clean up the mess conniving, selfish, self serving and better than the rest of us”so dem think” malicious tricksters created.
    Teach them a proper lesson for the future so no person or pace can entertain the idea to do Trinbago an atrocity of this magnitude ever again

  36. How would bankrupting the sport help it develop though?

  37. Is action at the CAS still happening?

  38. Time to make a strong statement to Disrespectful people in this Society ..

  39. So does this preclude action at the International Court of Arbitration for Sport?