Solicitor overcharged publican by €500k
A solicitor was responsible for the “blatant and obvious” overcharging of his client by around €500,000.
The High Court Taxing Master made the finding against Wicklow-based solicitor Joseph Buckley over work he carried out for publican Denis Doyle.
The marathon legal case – one of the longest-running to be dealt with by the Taxing Master – had been going on for the past six years.
Mr Doyle was disputing historical fees charged by Mr Buckley and the case was before the Taxing Master Declan O’Neill for adjudication.
Mr Buckley had set out his objections, all but one of which were disallowed by Mr O’Neill in a ruling issued today.
In the ruling, Mr O’Neill said he found Mr Buckley, whose practice is at St Ives, Seapoint, Bray, had charged Mr Doyle up to five times the norm in one instance. He refused to put a stay on either publishing his findings or issuing a certificate of taxation, as had been requested by Mr Buckley.
Mr O’Neill said, having examined the relevant paid bills, he was not satisfied there had been “informed voluntary payment”.
He said he had had doubts about Mr Buckley’s credibility and was not prepared to accept that the bills and invoices were properly served on the client.
He was also not satisfied that “a full and considered evaluation of bills took place so that the client understood them sufficiently, or at all”.
Some of the bills related to the cost of the sale in 2006 of two parcels of land to Wicklow County Council.
These were the costs incurred in negotiating and reaching two agreements dated January that year for the sale of part of Mr Doyle’s land for €700,000 and separately part of the family lands for €200,000.
The ruling stated that the bills for conveyancing included the costs for negotiations and preparation of the contracts.
“Notwithstanding this, I considered… the actual fees levied were especially high,” the ruling stated.
It went on to say that the sums claimed in the case of the farmlands were 50pc higher than the norm, and in the case of the family lands “five times the norm”.
Consideration of the files reinforced Mr O’Neill’s view that the fees charged were “totally unwarranted” and that the client was not properly appraised as to their basis.