City socialite Sheila Nadege, commonly known as Don Zella, has been ordered by the High Court in Kampala to pay USh20 million as security for costs in her lawsuit against Speke Hotel 1996 Limited, trading as Speke Apartments which is owned by real estate tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia under Meera Investments Ltd.
Don Zella had sued the hotel seeking damages worth USh456,250,000 ($125,000).
The decision was made by High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana after an application by Speke Apartments’ lawyers requesting that Don Zella provide security for costs in her main case and for the costs of their application.
Judge Ssekaana ruled that while it is a fundamental principle that a person asserting a claim should have access to justice, there are circumstances where the plaintiff should be required to provide security to ensure the defendant can recover their costs if successful.
The judge held, “I have carefully considered the applicant’s (Speke Apartments) application, the affidavit evidence, the laws cited, as well as the authorities cited by counsel. This application was not opposed by the respondent (Don Zella), which means that the evidence of the applicant is unassailed and is admitted to this court.”
Judge Ssekaana further stated that a plaintiff should not be allowed to litigate on an unlikely claim and leave the defendant with the burden of costs.
He ruled that Don Zella’s claim of negligence on the part of Speke Apartments lacked merit as she had no contract with the hotel.
The room in question was booked by another person, Shanita Male. Therefore, Don Zella had no cause of action against Speke Apartments.
The judge noted, “The nature of the case before the court shows that the respondent’s (Don Zella’s) claims are frivolous and vexatious since she does not have a contract with the applicant. It appears that the respondent is in collusion with the suspected burglar, and the whole robbery or burglary was stage-managed to seek compensation wrongly from the applicant and tarnish the applicant’s business image.”
In considering the circumstances of the case, the judge agreed with Speke Apartments’ lawyers that Don Zella has no known property, income, or business in Uganda.
Moreover, she resides in the United States, making it unlikely that she would be able to pay costs if she loses the main suit.
As a result, Judge Ssekaana ordered Don Zella to furnish security for costs amounting to USh20,000,000 within three months from the date of the order.
Alternatively, she may provide a bank guarantee or bond within one month.
In her lawsuit, Don Zella claimed that on December 6, 2020, she rented two apartments at Speke Apartments, room numbers 107 and 512.
On December 25, while she and her family were away, a burglar or burglars broke into apartment 107 and stole her property valued at USh460 million.
The stolen items were kept in a locked apartment and in a safe that was present in the apartment for valuables.
The court documents also alleged that the burglar or burglars unscrewed the safe and made off with the stolen items.