Judge hands over ownership of disputed St Mary’s Hospital to a private firm

by Wakili Liam

St Mary’s Mission Hospital has been at the centre of dispute between a US catholic priest Dr William Charles Fryda and Assumption Sisters of Nairobi (ASN).

The dispute was over who owned the multi-billion hospital that provides health care at an affordable cost to the poor.

In 2010, Dr William Fryda filed a suit against ASN over the control of the Hospital’s Elementaita branch that was opened in 2007.

He claimed that in 1998 he sought for land in Nairobi specifically to put up a hospital to cater for the poor. He ended up buying St Mary’s Langata at Sh38 million.

To actualise his vision, he paid for the incorporation and registration of St Mary’s Mission Hospital Nairobi as a limited liability company.

However, since the company was yet to be registered when he bought it, he agreed with ASN, that the title deed be registered in their name with the understanding that the nuns would later transfer the property to a body he was to register.

The priest said he started the development of the property with his money and that from friends and donors. He said he spent Sh553 million on the project. Later in Elementaita, he spent Sh365 million.

Twists and turns later, the nuns refused to give up their hospital, these led to a violent confrontation in late 2017 where people got injured and property damaged.

Court of Appeal

Last week, the Court of Appeal ordered that the property in Nakuru and Nairobi be transferred to a limited liability company, St. Mary’s Mission Hospital Nairobi.

St. Mary’s Mission Hospital Nairobi is fully controlled by the sisters.

The court directed that Dr William Charles Fryda and the sisters jointly oversee the handover of the hospitals from the sisters to the company and ensure that it is fully vested with the ownership and management of the same.

The judgment was made by Justices Asike Makhandia, Kathurima M’Inoti and Agnes Murgor.

Quick facts about the property

In spending Sh365 million on the Elementaita property, Dr Fryda discovered that he could not register the land since he was not a Kenyan Citizen.

He therefore, asked Sister Maria Felix Mwikali of ASN to register the land under ASN on the understanding they would hand over the property to the company he intended to form once registered. 

From his mission, he said he wrote a cheque of Sh5 million in the name of ASN being a deposit for the land on December 11, 1997.

He later learnt that the land would be held in the name of the Catholic Church which he was not agreeable to. He thus asked ASN to refund the money which was done in October 1998.

In mid-1998 he bought 10-acre land in Langata at Sh1.8 million an acre. He later acquired another parcel of land at the same place.

ASN on their part said the hospitals were as a result of a collaborative meeting between them and Maryknoll Fathers and brothers which Dr Fryda was linked to. It was agreed that ASN would be legal owners of the hospitals. They denied that Fryda paid for the properties alone.

They further said ASN was solely responsible for the formation and incorporation of the company.

ASN through Sister Marie Gacambi denied claims that they held property in trust for Dr Fryda. Gacambi said they contributed to the projects by acquiring, constructing and maintaining them from their own resources.

She said ASN together with Fryda, developed the Hospital Management Procedures. With regard to the developments on the parcels of land she said Fryda played the role of Chief Executive Officer. 

The judges observed that the relationship between the two parties broke down at some point, even though they fully trusted each other in the past.

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