Friday 27 April 2018

Company's case dismissed because of deliberate dishonesty

The Lord Lucan Pub in Lucan. Picture:
The Lord Lucan Pub in Lucan. Picture:

A company claimed up to €370,000 was owed to it for works to a pub of businessman Charlie Chawke - but later conceded the value of its claim was no more than €28,691, the High Court heard.

A judge dismissed the company's claim on grounds including "deliberate dishonesty" on its part.

WL Construction (WL) Ltd had presented some 14 versions of its claim ranging in value from some €28,691 to €370,892, with most of those advanced after it brought its court case, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said. 

The claim was for sums allegedly outstanding for renovation and extension works to the Lord Lucan pub in Lucan which were completed at the end of 2006. Mr Chawke and Edward Joseph Bohan, co-owners of the pub, disputed any monies were due.

It was conceded on behalf of the company during a 28-day court hearing earlier this year the value of its claim was €28,691.

The court was told payments of some €700,000 had been made to WL for the works and the owners disputed any further monies were due. Both sides also disputed the nature of the contract documents involved.

In his judgment on Monday, Mr Justice Noonan granted an application by the owners to strike out WL's claim after finding no prima facie claim had been made out and there was "deliberate dishonesty" in how it was prosecuted.

The strike out order was sought at the end of the company's case and before the defendants went into evidence.

The judge said "deliberate dishonesty" by the company in prosecution of its claim, coupled with "constant advancement of news claims and abandonment of old ones", led directly to the trial being prolonged in a manner and to an extent amounting to abuse of the court's process.

The entire claim was tainted by the "lies and dishonesty" of William Loughnane, principal of WL, who falsified a number of invoices as part of an effort to deceive the defendants and advance a fraudulent claim, he held.

He considered the evidence of Mr Loughnane, along with the evidence of a quantity surveyor who gave evidence as an independent expert for the plaintiff, had been completely undermined arising from the court's findings on the issues in dispute.

Mr Loughnane's evidence was "grossly dishonest", he found.

WL also appeared to be insolvent and the costs incurred to date in the case were by any standards "enormous", he noted.  If the court allowed this case proceed, that would add to the costs and be unjust and oppressive to the defendants.

The manner in which the claim was advanced also had a dramatic effect on the length of the case which was scheduled to take six days and actually took 25, the judge said.

The fact it took so long was because WL's ground "constantly shifted and changed" and was also due "to Mr Loughnane's dishonesty" and that it had been exposed.

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