Friday 23 August 2019

High Court to rule on row over refurbishment of Supermac's store

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Aodhan O'Faolain

The High Court will rule today on a dispute between Supermac's and the operators of one of its stores over who should pay for the outlet's refurbishment.

Supermac's Ireland Limited is seeking an injunction against John and Mary Lyons who, it is claimed, have operated a franchise of the fast food restaurant at the Ennis Road Limerick for many years. 

The application, aimed at preventing the defendants from carrying out on works on the Ennis Road premises without the consent of Supermac's, is opposed.

Following submissions on Wednesday, Mr Justice Senan Allen remarked that the case involved parties "seeking to draw first blood."

Both sides he said were "experienced business people" who "know their business very well", he said.

The court would rule on Thursday but if the parties came up with a solution on Thursday, he would hold off making any ruling.

Rossa Fanning SC for Supermac's said the injunction, which would remain in place pending the outcome of the full hearing of the dispute, was being sought for an alleged breach of a clause in the Supermacs’ agreement.

Counsel said his client is both the landlord, as it has the freehold of the Ennis Road premises, as well as the holder of a franchise agreement for the restaurant.

Supermac's, counsel said, in order to ensure that its high standards are maintained as well as confirmatory with its other 100 plus outlets, has a policy of carrying out all refurbishment works on its stores.

It was accepted that refurbishment works are required, but the dispute is over who carries them out, counsel said.

The Lyons’ intention to carry out such works is a breach of the franchise agreement, he added.

The Lyons, who the court heard have operated  Supermac's franchises for many years denies Supermacs’ claims, and say they are entitled to carry out the refurbishment works on the store.

Andrew Sexton SC, for the Lyons, argued that the court should not grant the injunction.

The Lyons say that for some years the store needs to be refurbished, in particular equipment such as the cash registrars need urgent replacement. 

They claim that the action taken by

Supermac's is "satellite proceedings" arising out of the Circuit Court's decision in 2018 that Supermac's boss Pat McDonagh must reimburse over €150,000 in "overpaid" council rates and rent to the couple.

An appeal over the Ennis Road outlet's tenancy is due to be heard by the High Court in July.

The couple also dispute they are in breach of a franchise agreement purportedly entered into between the parties in 2000.

In a sworn statement to the court, Mr Lyons has claimed that he never signed such an agreement and described it as a forgery.

In reply, Mr McDonagh said in his sworn statement that the accusation is "entirely baseless," and has asked for it to be withdrawn.

Mr McDonagh said that the written franchise agreement that was provided to Mr Lyons by solicitors representing him was a copy.

He said both his own and the defendant's handwriting experts have said that it was not possible to give a view as to the veracity of the signatures contained on the copy without sight of the original.

Mr Fanning told the court that after an exhaustive search the original had been located at the office of a solicitor that had previously represented Supermacs.

Counsel said the document originated sometime in the early 1990's, and not 2000.

The original document had been made available in recent days to the defendant’s hand-writing expert for an examination so Mr McDonagh can be cleared of the allegations which he says are frivolous and vexatious.

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