A TORY Island hotelier who built a car park on the remains of a 150-year-old holiday home which burnt down may have to pay damages to its former owner.
A High Court judge who is presiding over a legal row over a holiday home which allegedly "disappeared" and became a car park for an adjoining hotel yesterday said the case may be dealt with on the basis of unjust enrichment by the hotel.
This requires someone who has obtained a benefit at the expense of another, without a legal justification, to provide compensation or restitution for their loss.
Film maker, Neville Presho (61) has brought a High Court action against hotelier Patrick Doohan and his hotel, Ostan Thoraigh Comhlacth Teoranta, for ongoing trespass and physical damage to his one-time holiday home on Tory Island, off the Donegal coast.
Mr Presho bought the house in 1982 and he left for New Zealand in 1986.
He returned in 1994 and was astounded to find a car park of a hotel belonging to Mr Doohan in the place where his house once stood.
Mr Justice Roderick Murphy said yesterday Mr Presho had not succeeded in proving the cause of the damage, but he (judge) was finding that, notwithstanding this, there may be a case against the hotel for unjust enrichment.
The judge said he wanted to hear submissions on this before he would give a final judgment and he adjourned the matter to next May.
He said it was clear the hotel had benefited from the demolition of the house and the clearing of the rubble which was left over.
The clearing of the rubble, which the court heard was regarded as a danger to children, was done by Mr Doohan with the authority of Donegal County Council, Mr Justice Murphy said.
He said he would, as part of submissions on the issue of unjust enrichment, invite the parties to deal with any award of damages that may follow.
The case, which was heard over a number of days in the High Court sitting in Letterkenny, centred on what happened to the 150-year-old two-storey house, which had been boarded up for eight years after Mr Presho moved to New Zealand.
The court heard that sometime between January 1993 and May 1994, the house suffered damage before it burnt down and was later demolished. The site was then used as a car park, and septic tank for the hotel was also put on it.
Gardai investigated but found no forensic evidence to substantiate any criminal charges that the fire was malicious.
Mr Presho told the court the case was not about retribution but "about restitution."