Developer Dunne criticised for 'wasting court's time'
Published 06/10/2011 | 05:00
DEVELOPER Sean Dunne has been sharply criticised by the High Court for "wasting" its time following a lengthy hearing where he sued a cleaning company for breach of contract.
The court yesterday awarded damages totalling €22,518 to a company involving the businessman after it proved it had been overcharged for cleaning services carried out at a luxury south Dublin apartment complex.
Hollybrook (Brighton Road) Management Company Ltd, sued All First Property Management Company Ltd (in liquidation) and Gina Farrell, trading as Gina Farrell Cleaning Services, alleging fraud, negligence, misrepresentation, conspiracy and breach of confidence.
The case centred on an allegation that Ms Farrell had over-charged for cleaning services between 2003 and 2006, provided duplicate invoices and altered log books to prove that cleaners were working at the Hollywood apartment complex on Brighton Road in Foxrock, Co Dublin, when they had not been present.
From the outset, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy urged both sides in the action, which dates back five years, to engage in mediation but Ms Farrell refused. In a stinging rebuke yesterday, the judge said a lot of what had happened in the 17-day case involved "a waste" of the court's time.
"A lot of what ensued, in my view, involved a waste of the time and the resources of the High Court and the public monies which fund the High Court, for which both sides share responsibility," she said in her 60-page written judgment.
"As regards the pursuit of the proceedings against Ms Farrell to a hearing... I think it is reasonable to infer that Mr Dunne has been the prime mover.
"It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Mr Dunne had, from the start, and continues to have, an ulterior motive for funding these very costly proceedings against Ms Farrell."
The court was told that Ms Farrell had a business relationship with Mr Dunne going back to the 1990s.
A "serious dispute" arose between the parties in April or May 2005. Since then, Ms Farrell had begun three separate legal proceedings claiming she was owed more than €130,000 by Mr Dunne, and a separate case alleging her phone was "hacked" by the businessman in April 2005 -- a claim he denies.
Companies controlled by Mr Dunne have also taken a number of actions against Ms Farrell. None of the legal actions have been finalised.
A spokesman for Mr Dunne last night said the case went ahead because any allegation of fraud amounting to more than €38,000 had to be pursued in the High Court. "On the opening day of the trial, the judge rightly concluded that the costs would be astronomical."
"To take a case for anything over €38,000 you have to go to the High Court and suffer High Court costs. Mr Dunne did not give evidence on the advice of his legal team," he said.
The judge found that in January 2006 Ms Farrell became aware that her conduct was being monitored, and removed concierge logs from Hollybrook and also altered 336 entries of the attendance of her cleaners at the apartment complex.
She was contractually obliged to have two cleaners at Hollybrook daily but did not always comply with that obligation and was therefore in breach of contract, Judge Laffoy ruled.
But it was difficult to assess the loss suffered because there was just one complaint about the standard of cleaning.
Noting that payments to Ms Farrell over the period August 2003 to February 2006 amounted to €112,592, she ruled Hollybrook was entitled to damages of one-fifth of that sum -- €22,518.