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Couple involved in row with neighbour over hedge lose case and face massive legal bill


James and Ann Madigan

James and Ann Madigan

James and Ann Madigan

A couple embroiled in a legal battle with their neighbours over a hedge are now facing a massive legal bill after they lost their case.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said if the events of this case had featured in the plot of the "The Field" audiences might have regarded them as too implausible to be credible.

"In John B Keane's play there was a field at stake between the protagonists. In this case is is not more than a few feet of hedge," he said.

Mr Justice Kearns who as the outset of the High Court action had pleaded with both sides to take an " eleventh hour opportunity " to settle and avoid huge legal costs said yesterday it was almost implausible to understand how such a dispute could have taken seven days of court time in the Circuit Court and a similar amount of time in the High Court.

The case was before the High Court by way of an appeal from the Circuit Court which last year found in favour of James and Ann Madigan, Askintinny near Clogga Beach in Co Wicklow and awarded them a total of €5,000 damages for trespass and nuisance and said they were entitled to a right of way on to the laneway for the purpose of maintaining their hedgegrow.

Neighbours Kathleen Maureen Reuter and Marian and Sean Reuter who run a caravan park near the beach had  appealed that decision to the High Court.

The court heard that an open offer had been made  at the start of the appeal by caravan park owners, the Rueters to settle the case which includes €20,000 contribution towards legal costs previously incurred.

At the centre of the case was the alleged widening of the entrance to the laneway where it meets the public road and which the Madigans claimed encroached on their property.

Mr Justice Kearns ruled all of the Madigan claims must fail and he granted a declaration the Rueters are entitled to exclusive ownership , possession and occupation of the laneway including the hedge. He also awarded all costs against the Madigans.

The judge said all efforts to encourage or broker a compromise in the bitter dispute between the neighbours have failed at every turn.

As a result he said the court had to hear not just the evidence of the neighbours but also from multiple experts including a chartered engineer, a surveyo, an arborist, a Land Commission solicitor and a historian.