Claim against Greyhound over illegal dump on farmland dismissed

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Tim Healy

A man and his mother have lost a High Court damages action against Greyhound Recycling and Recovery over the illegal dumping of waste from the company's premises on their farmland.

Colm Hanrahan and Geraldine Hanrahan claimed that between 960 and 1,840 tonnes of material, including household waste, was dumped in a 0.4 hectrare old quarry area of the family farm at Graigueadrisly, Rathdowney, Co Laois, between March and April 2011.  

The quarry was located in an outer farmyard area, about 1.2km from the Hanrahan home.

The Hanrahans also sought orders that Greyhound remove the waste and remediate the lands.

They had claimed Greyhound's actions amounted to trespass, negligence, breach of duty, nuisance and interference with Mr Hanrahan's economic relations with his own employer.

Mr Hanrahan had been working with a company in Thurles and is now self employed with his own automatic milking machine dealership.  He claimed as a result of adverse publicity about these events, on the internet and elsewhere, his competitors have been using that publicity against him.

His lawyers have made an application to Google under "right to be forgotten" guidelines which allow for the removal of material on the internet.  He also said his mother has been terribly affected by the proceedings.

Greyhound denied any material from its Cragh Avenue, Clondalkin, Dublin, facility was transported and dumped on the Hanrahan lands or that it authorised such dumping.  It did not know about the dumping until informed by Laois Co Council in April 2011, it said.

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Greyhound also contended the Hanrahans were not entitled to the reliefs sought in circumstances where the High Court previously found Mr Hanrahan in contempt for failing to comply with an order to remedy the effects of the dumping.  

The Hanrahans were precluded from obtaining any relief because they did not come to court with "clean hands", the company asserted.

The case was before Mr Justice David Keane who heard evidence from Mr Hanrahan and three lorry drivers who told of delivering loads from Greyhound in Clondalkin to the Hanrahan farm. 

At the end of the Hanrahan's case, Greyhound was refused an application to dismiss the case and the company did not go into evidence.

On the basis of the evidence presented, Mr Justice Keane found the Hanrahans had failed discharge the burden of proof to satisfy the court they were entitled to judgment on the balance of probabilities.

He found as fact the Hanrahans did know of the large scale operation whereby municipal waste in "lorry load after lorry load"  arrived at the farmyard where it was discharged and then taken by tractor and trailer some 400 metres across their lands to the old quarry.

He found Greyhound was the producer of that waste, as defined by the Waste Management Act 1996, and that it was illegally dumped on the Hanrahan lands. 

The judge regretted to say he found Mr Hanrahan to be an "entirely unreliable witness whose testimony stretched credulity beyond breaking point on several issues."

That included Mr Hanrahan's assertions that both he and his late father had been taken in by a "mysterious figure" called Mr O'Connor who has since completely vanished.

He did not accept Mr Hanrahan's proposition that his late father had perjured himself in legal proceedings taken over the dumping by Laois Council.  He had only made that claim after his father's death.

The Hanrahans were debarred from obtaining the relief they sought in their action by virtue of their own wrongful conduct, the common law defence that an action cannot arise from dishonourable conduct, he said.

The Hanrahans had also not sought the ventilate the claims in this action against Greyhound during the council's proceedings against them (Hanrahans) over the dumping, he said.

The judge said considering certain of the findings of fact in his judgment, it may be that some further action remains possible under the 1996 Act.

It may be that, if the Hanrahans are now prepared to offer the council the evidence they have so far withheld from it, the council may be able to assist or act in that regard, he said.

Costs will be decided next month.

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