Sunday 17 December 2017

€12m Dalkey mansion is the 'unluckiest' house in Ireland, High Court hears

The Four Courts
The Four Courts

A HOUSE in Dalkey, Co Dublin - on the market for a "modest" €12m after a planned sale for €22m to retired solicitor Brian O'Donnell did not proceed - is the "unluckiest" house in the country, the High Court heard.

Number One Sorrento Terrace has been involved in eight legal cases in a decade and was described by barrister Rossa Fanning as the unluckiest house in Ireland.

The latest set of proceedings over the house have been brought against solicitors A & L Goodbody alleging professional negligence in relation to its handling of litigation and insurance issues concerning the property, Mr Fanning, for the law firm, said. 

There is a "full defence" to those claims, he said.

The proceedings have been brought by Terry Coleman, his wife Anita, and a company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Agulhas Resources Inc.

In court documents, it was stated Agulhas is a nominee of a discretionary trust based in the BVI which owns the property, having bought it for €5.9m in 1998.

It was also stated the Colemans are beneficiaries of the trust and had lived at No 1.

Among the claims against the law firm is an "exotic" allegation that its alleged failure to ensure certain litigation concerning the property was finalised by 2009 meant the planned sale to Mr O'Donnell, who lived "not far away" at Gorse Hill, did not proceed, Mr Fanning said.

This was because the contract for sale of the property entered into by Mr O'Donnell in 2007 contained a clause which provided that, if litigation concerning the property was not finalised by 2009, the sale did not proceed, the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was told.

Mr Fanning said this essentially amounted to a claim a sale was lost "at the top of the market" but his side rejected that on grounds including Mr O'Donnell would not have been in a position to close the sale in 2009 due to financial difficulties.

His side would also argue the Colemans knew the 2009 deadline was approaching and could have settled the continuing litigation then but chose not to.

Mr Fanning said litigation was brought against the owners of No 1 by a neighbour in Number 2, Ronnie Robbins.

In those proceedings, initiated in 2005, injunctions were sought compelling the owners to deal with various alleged defects on their property which were alleged to be causing a nuisance for Mr Robbins and interfering with his enjoyment of the property.

That litigation led to several more sets of proceedings in which the owners of No 1 sued, among others, builders, engineers, project managers and insurers. 

Mr Fanning said his side's understanding was that six of those cases had completed and there was one pending against various insurance entities as well as the case against his clients, which was initiated in 2011.

The house is now on sale for a "modest" €12m, counsel added.

When Mr Justice Kearns said he believed he may have dealt with earlier litigation concerning the property, Mr Fanning said there "may be few judges who have not" as this was the eighth set of proceedings involving it.

Mr Justice Kearns dealt with various disclosure of document issues in the proceedings before adjourning the matter to July next for further case management.

In its defence, A & L Goodbody denies any negligence and is also counter-claiming for some €237,000 legal fees allegedly due and owing to it for work done between 2006 and 2011.

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