Sunday 18 February 2018

Pensioner faces huge legal bill after losing golf cheating lawsuit

Thomas Talbot arriving at the High Court for an earlier hearing
Thomas Talbot arriving at the High Court for an earlier hearing

Mark O'Regan and Tim Healy

A PENSIONER who accused his former golf club of effectively branding him a cheat is facing a €500,000 legal bill after losing a €10m lawsuit.

Retired insurance official Thomas Talbot said he had no option but to appeal to the Supreme Court as he was unable to pay the huge bill.

Mr Talbot claimed his reputation was damaged after Hermitage Golf Club in Lucan, Co Dublin reduced his handicap by 7.7 shots between 1999 and 2004, claiming he was "handicap building".

A golfer's handicap is the number of strokes allocated to him based on ability.

Handicap building is deliberately playing below one's ability to get a more generous stroke allowance.

Mr Talbot (75), of Burnell Court, Malahide Road, Dublin sued both the club and Eddie Murphy, its former handicap secretary, in the High Court for defamation -- but yesterday his case was struck out.

The amateur golfer claimed he was defamed in a certificate sent to him by the handicap sub-committee in July 2003 stating his handicap was 13, with the words "General Play (Handicap Building)" at the bottom.

Mr Justice Daniel Herbert rejected claims he had been defamed and also that there had been a conspiracy against him by the club borne out of Mr Murphy's vindictiveness and ill-will towards him.

The judge found the words "handicap building" were defamatory, but was also satisfied the words were not published to a third party, which is a requirement for a document to be libellous.

"I may have lost the fight, but I haven't lost the battle," he told the Irish Independent following yesterday's ruling.

"What can I do except appeal or shut up and bare it. I have to appeal; I have no choice. I said to him (the judge) 'I will accept your decision -- although I think you are totally wrong -- if, at least, you don't award costs against me'. He then turned to the other side and said 'the costs are in your favour'.

Mr Talbot, who represented himself in court, alleged a cumulative reduction of his handicap by 7.7 shots between 1999 and 2004 was tantamount to being branded a cheat.

"I was making a conciliatory effort to end the case amicably by at least putting the costs on to them.

"I certainly haven't a tuppence to rub together. It has to be appealed because I can't afford €500,000 costs in a case I should have won.

"I rent my home and I've a few policies that are meant to be payments for Alison, Nicola, Colin and Frances (his children) when the eldest is 50 years of age, which will be in 2018. The rest is just enough to pay the rent and live on."


He added: "He (the judge) could have concluded it fully and finally for all time if he had just awarded the cost against people who could afford to pay them. I said to him that I thought the judgment was wrong and I will appeal."

The 21-day trial ended last February, but Mr Talbot had to wait until yesterday to find out whether the verdict had gone his way.

And while he says the stress of the past six years has taken its toll, he plans to fight on and will submit his appeal on Monday morning.

"I can and will be appealing on points of law; on the basis I am entitled to a trial by judge and jury.

"I am appealing to the Supreme Court on Monday on the basis there are arguments in fact and in law that are in dispute. I was aware that costs generally go with the judgment; I was aware of that risk from the outset."

Irish Independent

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