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Bad blood bogs down petty debts hearing

Bad blood bogs down petty debts hearing

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Bad blood bogs down petty debts hearing

Bad blood between two former work colleagues has been aired in Guernsey's Petty Debts court, as Zef Eisenberg sues a former employee for breaking an NDA.

Mr Eisenberg alleges James Larbalestier, who used to work for him designing and building his super bikes and cars, either used an alias or an agent to make a complaint to the Planning Department about his use of a shed for work on his vehicles. Mr Eisenberg claims that by doing so, Mr Larbalestier broke that non-disclosure agreement.

The complaint itself was investigated by Planning but never came to anything, as it was found the land had not been misused. Mr Eisenberg is claiming expenses for both his lawyers' time (who fought the complaint), and his time. This amounts to between £9,000 and £10,000, and £2,300 respectively. 

Zef Quadman

Pictured: Zef Eisenberg on one of his super bikes. 

Mr Larbalestier had a falling out with his former boss and they parted ways, but then, according to Mr Eisenberg, sometime in 2018 the two had a spat over a trademark. Three days after that argument, Mr Eisenberg received the planning complaint. He says it must have been his former 'Head of Engineering', or one of Mr Larbalestier's family members trying to get back at him for that argument. 

If he made the complaint, Mr Larbalestier would have broken the non-disclosure agreement he signed, agreeing to keep a number of details about the contents of the shed secret. As Mr Eisenberg showed the court, the complaint itself made specific reference to a number of things which only someone 'on the inside' could have known.

But the defendant completely denies these accusations, and while he acknowledges the timing of the planning complaint was a big coincidence, he says he did not write the complaint, nor does he know who did.

Mr Larbalestier's defence case relied on proving to the court that he was not the only one who could have known about the specifics mentioned in the report. He said neighbours could have been annoyed by the noise of the turbines, and showed that builders had been inside and also knew about some of those aforementioned specifics.

zef Eisenberg

Pictured: Zef Eisenberg on his MadMax race bike. 

Mr Eisenberg had attempted to get anyone else he believed could have theoretically made the kind of complaint that was made, to sign a statement saying they did not.  Mr Larbalestier's father was one of those who would not sign this statement, as he had visited the site 20-30 times when his son was working there. However under oath, he told the court and Judge Thornton that neither he, nor his daughter-in-law had made the complaint. Mrs Larbalestier also appeared to corroborate that. 

When appearing as a witness, the Director of Planning Jim Rowles also confirmed the name on the complaint did not belong to a Larbalestier, although he conceded a complainant could fake a name to a degree, and there would be no way of tracing that back to the person.

The exact ID of the complainant is protected by GDPR, and the court decided ordering it to be released would not help them determine an outcome. 

The entire case on Tuesday was, however, marred by long standing bad blood between the two men, who were both representing themselves. Judge Thornton had to repeatedly interject to keep the case on track, and not allow it to become a 'mud slinging match'. 

He wanted the case to be concise, and establish whether Mr Larbalestier would have broken the NDA if he had made the complaint, and if so, if he had actually made it. 

The case was adjourned until Friday, when a judgement will be delivered. 

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