Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ex-chair of Personal Injuries Board contests aunt's alleged last will

Dorothea Dowling
Dorothea Dowling

Tim Healy

The former chairperson of the Personal Injuries Board, Dorothea Dowling, and her cousin, Gráinne O'Flynn, are contesting the alleged last will of their aunt Angela O'Loughlin, the High Court heard.

Ms O'Loughlin died, aged 90, in 2016 and had made another niece, Mary Dwyer and her husband Kenneth Dwyer, the main beneficiaries and executors of a December 2013 will she made.

Ms Dowling and Ms O'Flynn claim their aunt, who lived at Rathdown Park, Terenure, Dublin, had made another will in April 2013, in which the two of them were substantial beneficiaries.

They also claim the December 2013 will was made when their aunt was not of sound mind.

The Dwyers deny their claims and say the aunt was properly managing her affairs. They also have medical opinion supportive of their case.

The Dwyers brought High Court proceedings in 2017 seeking to have the December 2013 will proved, a procedure known as having it admitted to probate, after the defendant cousins entered caveats or warnings over the will.

The case came before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan in relation to applications by both sides seeking disclosure of documents and material necessary for the full hearing of the case.

The material sought by Ms Dowling related to correspondence, diary entries, video footage of the deceased between 2012 and 2014, medical records, bank account and savings/financial investments.

Some of it was provided voluntarily by the Dwyer side but they said no video footage existed and bank information was declined. They said her assets comprised her home, three bank accounts and a small number of prize bonds.

Ms Dowling had discharged her solicitors and represented herself at the discovery hearing. Mr Justice Noonan said cases such as this frequently turn on the opinion of medical experts regarding the capacity of the deceased.

The Dwyers had made it clear to the defendants they had medical opinion to support their case, the judge said.

Ms Dowling's request for documents in relation to the deceased's state of mind appeared to rest upon "Ms Dowling's own interpretation of various documents including medical records", the judge said.

Ms Dowling conceded she was not an independent medical expert but said she had a certain proficiency in deciphering medical records from her extensive litigation experience.

"The fact remains Ms Dowling is not a doctor and is not entitled to give opinion evidence on medical matters pertaining to the deceased's mental health", the judge said.

The case comes back to court next month.

Irish Independent

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