Court strikes out Lighthouse application for default judgment against The Fourth Estate

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An Accra High Court has struck out an application by the Lighthouse Chapel International seeking a default judgment against “The Fourth Estate”.

The charismatic church was seeking default judgment after it claimed those associated with The Fourth Estate had failed to file their defence within the stipulated time.

The Lighthouse Chapel had sued the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Estate, Manasseh Azure Awuni; the reporter who worked on the Lighthouse story, Edwin Appiah; the Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Sulemana Braimah; and the Media Foundation for West Africa(MFWA), for defamation.

The church filed three different defamation suits covering the three-part series, “Darkness in a lighthouse”, which was published by The Fourth Estate in 2021.

The Fourth Estate is a non-profit journalism project of the MFWA.

The lawyer for the defendants, Samson Lardy Anyenini, in opposing the application for default judgment, argued that the church’s application was ‘premature’.

The application, which received wide media publicity even before a copy would be served on lawyers for the defendants, was scheduled to be argued today. But when the case was called, the lawyer for the church, Kweku Paintsil, said he was withdrawing it.

He said even though a search at the court registry on January 10, 2022, indicated defence had not been filed, he was later served and he realized the four defendants had actually filed their defence earlier on January 6, 2021.

Addressing Justice Joseph Adu-Owusu Agyeman, Kweku Painstil indicated that he was withdrawing the motion for a default judgment against all four defendants.

The lawyer for the defendants, Samson Lardy Anyenini, said though the withdrawal was expected, the application for default judgment was ‘premature.’

He argued that the defendants filed appearance on December 20, 2021, and the courts were on vacation from 23rd December and resumed on January 6, 2021. He said he had come to raise legal objection. He read Order 79 of the Civil Procedure Rules of court.

The presiding judge, Justice Joseph Adu-Owusu Agyeman, struck out all three applications as having been withdrawn.

The judge also ordered the church to bring a fresh writ of summons consolidating all three cases as one suit because they are materially the same.

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