Monday 22 January 2018

Appeal over lifting of legal bar on Gorse Hill dismissed

An exterior view
An exterior view
Gorse Hill

Tim Healy

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by members of retired solicitor Brian O'Donnell's family, and by a company, against a decision lifting a legal bar on the sale of the former family home, Gorse Hill, Vico Road, Killiney, Co Dublin.

In July last year, the High Court lifted legal notices called "lis pendens" which alert potential purchasers of pending litigation relating to the title of a property.

They were registered in March 2015 just after the adult O'Donnell children still living there had left following a failed lengthy court battle.

The notices were registered by Vico Ltd, the Isle of Man sole purpose vehicle set up by the O'Donnell family for the purpose of owning the luxury house.

Siblings Blake, Alexandra and Blaise O’Donnell
Siblings Blake, Alexandra and Blaise O’Donnell

The lis pendens effectively prevented the sale of the house by a receiver Bank of Ireland appointed to recover €71m owed by Brian O'Donnell and his wife Dr Mary Patricia for unpaid loans advanced to them to buy property.

The High Court granted the bank's application to lift the lis pendens finding they had been registered for the "improper purpose of frustration of the bank and receiver from dealing with the property at Gorse Hill".

On Wednesday (Oct 12), the Court of Appeal dismissed the O'Donnell appeal.  It also dismissed an application in which the O'Donnell's asked High Court judge Brian McGovern to disbar himself from hearing the case.

They had claimed, while not alleging any impropriety, that Judge McGovern should recuse himself from the case because his (judge's) wife had been involved in a partnership dispute where there had been borrowings with Bank of Ireland. 

At another hearing before a differently composed Court of Appeal, formal orders were made to reflect the court's decision made last July that Mary Pat O'Donnell is entitled to argue she has a right of residence at Gorse Hill arising out of the couple's claim that under the Family Home Protection Act, guaranteeing property entitlements to spouses.

Mr O'Donnell, who was in court for the decision with his son Blake, complained the purpose of the bank's proceedings was to get possession of Gorse Hill to sell or rent it "but they have not done so."

The court said it was not dealing with that issue and was only making a formal order to reflect its July decision.

The court also vacated a costs High Court order against the the O'Donnells in relation to that case and said it would make no order in relation to costs, which means both sides pay their own legal bills.

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