Tuesday 20 February 2018

Farmer agrees to make payments in €6.3m damages claim

Tim Healy

A FARMER alleged to have breached court orders to provide full details of his assets as part of a company's efforts to recover €6.3m damages has agreed to make various payments under a settlement negotiated.

The settlement was announced by Declan McGrath, for Keegan Quarries Ltd (KQL), to Mr Justice Peter Kelly at the Commercial Court after day long talks with lawyers representing farmer Michael McGuinness, Hilltown, Bellewstown, Co Meath.

Under the settlement, the company's application for attachment and committal to prison of Mr McGuinness over alleged failure to provide full details of his assets as part of the KQL's efforts to enforce a €6.34m damages judgment was struck out.

An order restraining Mr McGuinness dealing with his assets below €6.34m, other than to make payments under the settlement and to allow him ordinary personal and business expenses, will continue until the settlement is fully implemented.

In light of the settlement, an application by KQL for examination of Mr McGuinness in court about his assets was adjourned generally.

Mr McGuinness was previously ordered by Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan to pay €6.3m damages to KQL over making false representations to it when selling lands in Co Meath to the effect the lands had been lawfully registered for quarrying.

The judge also overturned a July 2010 transfer of lands and property by Mr McGuinness to his wife Marie after finding that was done with fraudulent intent to frustrate recovery of any judgment obtained by KQL against him.

KQL, Trammon, Rathmolyon, Co Meath, obtained the damages judgment in proceedings against Mr McGuinness while Mrs McGuinness was joined to the case in relation to the property transfers.

The action arose from the sale by Mr McGuinness to KQL of 30 acres of his 365-acre lands at Hilltown for €7 million under a contract of January 2007.

KQL claimed it entered that contract on the basis of false representations by Mr McGuinness to John Keegan of KQL the lands had been lawfully registered for quarrying.

In a 2011 judgment on separate proceedings by local residents against KQL, the High Court made orders halting use of the Hilltown lands by KQL as a quarry after finding that use was unauthorised development.

Following that judgment, KQL brought its action alleging deceit and misrepresentation by Mr McGuinness related to the use of the lands and claiming damages.

Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan found Mr McGuinness falsely represented to John Keegan the Hilltown lands he was selling were operated as a quarry before 1964 (meaning they would not require planning

permission) when that was not the case. Had Mr Keegan known the quarry had not been operated pre-1964, KQL would not have bought the lands, she found.

She also found Mr McGuinness made false representations to Meath Co Council of pre-1964 operation of the quarry by the previous owners of the lands.

The judge ruled KQL was entitled to recover the full €7m purchase price for the lands, less €1.5m representing the 2007 market value of the 30 acres without the benefit of pre-1964 quarry use. KQl was also entitled to stamp duty, legal and other costs to be determined later.

Total damages of €6.34m were later awarded.

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