Wednesday 21 March 2018

'I'm no gold digger' - Designer with claims history including €75k for wall repair and €83k for petrol station 'slip'

Francesca De Cataldo at her home Killiney. Photo: Tony Gavin
Francesca De Cataldo at her home Killiney. Photo: Tony Gavin
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

An Italian designer with a history of claims for compensation has insisted she is not a gold digger.

Francesca De Cataldo (40), from Killiney Hill Road, was in court this week in relation to a claim she made for €70,000 for damage to a wall caused by massive trees that border the property she lives in.

But she has said all of the compensation claims she has made are strictly on points of law and not for personal gain.

Today Ms De Cataldo explained her frequent litigation cases.

“I do not like being portrayed as a gold digger. Any case I have taken is on a point of law, it is not for personal gain, and my complaint about the trees beside my home is not only about something that is dangerous for me but for any guests who visit me or a  member of the public who is passing under them,” she said.

In 2009 she successfully sued the Avoca shop in Dublin’s Suffolk Street for €12,000 after a pan fell on her head while she climbed the stairs.

Francesca De Cataldo, of Duncan, Killiney Hill Road, Killiney, Co. Dublin pictured leaving the Four Courts after a Circuit Civil Court hearing. Pic: Collins Courts
Francesca De Cataldo, of Duncan, Killiney Hill Road, Killiney, Co. Dublin pictured leaving the Four Courts after a Circuit Civil Court hearing. Pic: Collins Courts

In 2012 she lost an action against an Applegreen service station in Ballybrack when she made a claim for €83,000 after falling in the forecourt. She is now appealing that ruling.

And in 2011 Ms De Cataldo failed in an action against client Val Timon, a solicitor and developer, when she sought payment of more than €77,000 from for furnishing apartments he owned in Dublin and France.

Ms De Cataldo has said this ruling is also under appeal.

"My previous complaints and claims do not colour this case about the trees. This is a separate issue, again on a point of law.

"I am not happy about being portrayed as a person who makes claims all the time. I have been portrayed as a gold digger.

"In Ireland there is a habit of gossiping about others, but I have taken these cases for the right reasons," Ms De Cataldo added.

Last March she gave the Circuit Civil Court an undertaking not to cut down trees locally believed to have been planted on Killiney Hill to mark a visit to Ireland by Queen Victoria more than a century ago.

Read more: Designer who claimed €75k to repair wall she didn't own had previously lost 'unconvincing' €83k 'slip' case... but won €12k when hit by frying pan

On Tuesday Ms De Cataldo was in court to hear Judge Jacqueline Linnane dismiss De Cataldo’s claim, with costs, against Abberley Management, who own the lane the trees are planted in, and strike out her claim against the Dun Laoghaire County Council, also with costs.

The judge said the court had been “quite taken aback by Ms De Cataldo’s mode of operating” and had received an undertaking that her felling of the trees would not be proceeded with.

Ms De Cataldo, who is from Venice but has been living in Killiney for 11 years, does not own the bungalow, but said had managed the property on behalf of her landlady for whom she acted as agent whenever maintenance needed to be done.

“I am prepared to pay the cost of taking down the trees even though they are not mine. The bill would be around €9,000. Is that something a gold digger would do?” Ms De Cataldo said.

She vowed to keep up her campaign to remove the 30 metre high Eucalyptus trees that were planted in 1835 and stand imposingly just nine metres from her bungalow.

Tree experts who compiled a report to support Ms De Cataldo’s claim say they have a fungal disease at the roots, an unbalanced overhanging canopy, and internal rot in three cases.

The experts recommended the trees be cut down and the roots removed.

“They have suffered from historical stem failure resulting in large limbs snapping from the canopy, and given the height at which these limbs fall from should they hit a pedestrian it could lead to serious injury or death,” the report states.

“I am not easily scared, but in my house on a windy day or night I am terrified. Branches have fallen from them before and the fire brigade has been out to deal with them,” said Ms De Cataldo.

“The legal costs so far have been five times the cost of cutting down the trees. Where is the logic in that?” she asked.

The nine trees in question dominate the skyline and dwarf the house.

They are believed to be among the tallest and oldest eucalyptus trees in the country.

 "The roots are coming under the foundations of the garage and the tree experts have said they have grown beyond a safe age. They also say the they have been pruned leaves all the weight on my side and that adds to the risk to property and safety of people," she explained.

"When huge branches fell off them in the past they blocked the road and cars had to drive on the opposite side to get around them. The branches were very big. Large enough to kill someone if they were underneath," she added.

Ms De Cataldo also said that the most recent court sitting in relation to the claim for damage caused by the trees was a success on her behalf because she won the right to institute further proceedings against Abberly Management without prior approval of the court.

Abberly had sought an injunction preventing Ms De Cataldo from issuing further proceedings but this was not granted by Judge Jacqueline Linnane at the Circuit Civil Court on Tuesday.

Ms De Caltado is the co-director and secretary of a music company called Sundogs Rock Productions.

Irish Independent

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