Published On: Sun, Mar 8th, 2020

Court protects St. Joseph School against unexpected sale

PHILIPSBURG – The Foundation for Catholic Education in St. Maarten (SKOS) has survived an attempt by the St. Catharina Foundation to kick it off the property where the St. Joseph School is located. The Court in First Instance ruled that SKOS is entitled to put an attachment for the purpose of delivery on the school grounds on Front Street in Philipsburg – thus preventing the Catharina Foundation from selling the property for $1.7 million to a third party.

The dispute between the two foundations finds its roots in an agreement they signed back in 1990, the year when the Catharina Foundation terminated all its activities in St. Maarten.

Established on the island in 1952, the Catharina Foundation’s mission was “to provide education and to take care of sick people under the religious guidance of the sisters.”

The objective of SKOS is the promotion of education in St. Maarten. Its activities date back to 1970 under its legal predecessor. SKOS gradually took over the education activities from the Catharina Foundation until the latter organization ceased all its activities on the island.

St. Joseph School - 2020030804 JHOn February 20, 1990, the foundations signed a deed at a local notary whereby the Catharina Foundation transferred the economic ownership of the school buildings to SKOS. One condition was that ownership would be given back to the Catharina Foundation if SKOS stopped using the property for educational purposes.

But on June 15, 1990, the Catharina Foundation signed a sale and purchase agreement with a third party for $1,000 per square meter; the total sale price was $1.7 million. There was however one condition: the sale would only become effective when the legal owner regained possession of “a school.” The agreement mentions that this was expected to happen in September 1992.

When the Catharina Foundation made an apparent move – more than 27 years later – to actually make the sale a reality, SKOS put an attachment for the purpose of delivery on the property. That attachment made the sale to a third party impossible and therefore the Catharina Foundation went to court in an attempt to have the attachment removed.

Judge Coen Luijckx issued his ruling on the case in summary proceedings on February 28. The judge ruled that the interest of SKOS to keep the attachment in place prevails over the interest of the Catharina Foundation to have it removed.

The ruling states that there is no indication that the third party that signed the sale and purchase agreement in 1990 still wants to buy the property and that the argument that the attachment threatens the existence of the Catharina Foundation lacks substantiation.

St. Joseph School - 2020030802 JH

On the other hand, the court considers it plausible that removing the attachment would put the educational function of the buildings at risk.

The court denied the Catharina Foundation’s demand to lift the attachment; it also denied the demand for a ban on further attachments. The ruling is immediately executable.

Photos caption: St. Joseph School building on Back Street, Philipsburg, St. Maarten.