Monday 22 January 2018

Supreme Court rules against man alleging negligence against former solicitors lotto lawsuit

Martin Horan
Martin Horan

The Supreme Court has halted an action by a man alleging negligence against his former solicitors arising from another legal action which found he was not entitled to a one-fifth share of a €1.57m Lotto prize.

Martin Horan, Carragown, Bohola, Castlebar, Co Mayo, will also have to pay the legal costs of the case against the solicitors after the court also said it could not depart from the normal rule that costs go to the successful party even though, the judges heard, Mr Horan is now destitute.

The three-judge court yesterday upheld a High Court decision striking out Mr Horan's claim against John O'Dwyer and Evan O'Dwyer, practising as Crean O'Cleirigh and O'Dwyer Solicitors, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo.

The High Court had struck out the action after finding Mr Horan had failed to pursue his case with diligence, including failure to attend court when a second trial date was specially fixed.

In his orginal action, Mr Horan alleged he was excluded from the winning syndicate by four members of it - Frank O'Reilly, a publican, of O'Reilly's pub, Ballyvary, Castlebar; Michael McHale, a farmer of Curranee, Ballyvary; John  Joyce, a taxi driver of Keelogue, Ballyvary, and Seamus O'Brien also a taxi driver of Ballyvary.  The draw took place on  January 6, 2001 when the jackpot was €1,577,578.

In December 2004, the High Court ruled Mr Horan was entitled to a one-fifth share based on an oral agreement entered into in early 1999 by the five and because Mr O'Brien, as syndicate organiser, had "carried" arrears built up by Mr Horan over a period.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the four argued Mr Horan was removed from the syndicate in October 2000, months before the win, because he was in arrears of contributions.

The Supreme Court found each member was to pay his contribution twice weekly to Mr O'Brien and it was not part of the agreement that individual members could pay in arrears and still remain a member.

The Supreme Court noted Mr Horan's separate action against the solicitors was initiated in 2009 following the earlier Supreme Court decision in 2008 in favour of the other four men.

Mr Horan alleged professional negligence by his solicitors arising from the defence of that appeal and claimed damages including the one-fifth share of the jackpot, some €300,000 in estimated legal costs and damages reflecting loss of opportunity to invest lottery winnings.

Mr Horan alleged the solicitors were negligent in permitting the Supreme Court to conclude the sides had agreed the "bet" placed by the Lotto syndicate was IR£6, representing contributions of four syndicate members not including Mr Horan.

This meant the Supreme Court had not addressed what he regarded as the "real" issue, the makeup of the syndicate when the winning ticket was bought, he alleged.

Those claims were denied.

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