AN estate agent who had been invited by a couple to look at their three-year-old home with a view to selling it asked if they had a ball or an orange to roll across the floor because he suspected the house was lopsided, the High Court heard.
He turned out to be correct and the house, at the Sallows, Letterbarrow, Co Donegal, owned by Karen and Francis Carr, who have five children, was never put up for sale.
"People who visit the house say they are sick when they are in it, that it is like being on a boat," Mrs Carr told the court.
The Carrs have sued engineer Gerard Duke, claiming that he failed to spot that the foundation had been defectively laid, resulting in the lopsidedness.
Mr Duke, of Duke Associates Consulting Engineers in Donegal Town, denies the claim. He says he was not employed in a day-to-day supervisory capacity but only on the basis of periodic inspections, of which he carried out seven at a fee of €140 each.
The Carrs say Mr Dukes was negligent and in breach of duty by failing to inspect the foundations or remedy the defects. They say they were left with a €100,000 mortgage for a house that is now valued at €30,000, but which is unsellable to someone needing a mortgage to buy it.
Luan O Braonain SC, for the Carrs, said Mr Duke entered a contract with the couple to obtain planning permission for the house, which was built in 2003 and 2004, and provide supervisory and inspection services.
There would be evidence that the house was built on a wet and boggy area, which would be apparent to anyone, but particularly an engineer, counsel said.
Under cross-examination by Gary Fitzgerald BL, for Mr Duke, Mrs Carr said the building was done by direct labour whereby they directly employed builders and tradesmen.
She disagreed that it was her responsibility to either have engaged Mr Dukes on a supervisory basis or spent an extra €50,000 on paying a building contractor to carry out all works.
The hearing continues.