Courts accept plea from Qormi council in floating coffins case
The First Hall of the Civil Court accepted the plea put forward by the local council of Qormi, that the Infrastructure Minister and the Tourism Ministry be excluded in a case filed by a man who offers funeral services.
In addition to this, the court then refused the plea of the Planning Authority and the Environment and Rural Affairs Minister (under the former administration) meaning that they will continue to be defendants in the case. The court also ordered the Director General of Works to form part of the case.
The case was filed by Karmenu Mifsud who offers funeral services as part of his work. Mr Mifsud conducts his business from various locations, one of which is done through a number of warehouses in his possession in Paul Farrugia Street, Qormi.
In these warehouses, Mr Mifsud holds coffins, vehicles and other items in connection with the services he offers.
On 25 October 2012, a heavy storm hit the islands. During this storm, large volumes of water started to break through the warehouses and flood the contents inside. In his complaint, Mr Mifsud explained that vast overdevelopment in the area surrounding the valley adjacent to his warehouses prior to 2010 meant that excessive rain water was being concentrated in a certain area. Moreover, part of the land surrounding the development was covered with cement, meaning that the soil was unable to absorb any of the rain water.
This led to the water getting into the warehouses, with a number of coffins located within even ending up out floating in the street.
Mr Mifsud complained that although the consequences of such development in the area was known, none of the necessary action was taken, resulting in Mr Mifsud’s movable and immovable property being damaged.
For these reasons Mr Mifsud filed a case against the Infrastructure Minister, the Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, the Tourism Minister, the former Malta Environment and Planning Association and the local council of Qormi.
He requested for all the above parties to pay the damages he incurred.
Judge Jacqueline Padovani Grima accepted the plea put forward by the Qormi local council and removed them from the case.
Witnesses on behalf of the local council testified that despite the council not being responsible for any valleys, it still paid out of its own pocket to clean up the damages from flooding in the valley.
With regard to the now Planning Authority, the courts held that while the final decision was not taken by the entity, this does not take away from the fact that it had a big impact on the flood relief project. The courts also held that it was the PA who has the functionality and power to put forward proposals for flood relief in parliament that would need to be approved by the minister.
The court concluded that the Environment and Rural Affairs Minister was fairly included in the case and chose to retain this defendant so that he may answer for decisions taken in open court.
From various testimonies, the involvement of the General Director within the Services Division in the flood relief project came to light, which is why the General Director for Works has been included in the case.
With regard to the Infrastructure Ministry and Tourism Ministry, the courts held there was no proof as to why they should be involved in the case.