herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Modest' €12m home the unluckiest house in country - lawyer

courts

1 Sorrento Terrace
1 Sorrento Terrace
Brian O'Donnell lost his appeal against the repossession of his former mansion

a HOUSE in Dalkey which is on the market for a "modest" €12m after a planned sale for €22m to retired solicitor Brian O'Donnell did not proceed is the "unluckiest" house in the country, the High Court heard.

Number 1 Sorrento Terrace has been involved in eight legal cases in a decade and was described by barrister Rossa Fanning as the unluckiest house in Ireland.

The latest set of proceedings over the house have been brought against solicitors A & L Goodbody, alleging professional negligence in relation to its handling of litigation and insurance issues concerning the property, said Mr Fanning, for the law firm.

exotic

There is a "full defence" to those claims, he said.

The proceedings have been brought by Terry Coleman, his wife Anita and a company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Agulhas Resources Inc.

In court documents it was stated that Agulhas is a nominee of a discretionary trust based in the BVI which owns the property, having bought it for €5.9m in 1998.

It was also stated that the Colemans are beneficiaries of the trust and had lived at No 1.

Among the claims against the law firm is an "exotic" allegation that its alleged failure to ensure certain litigation concerning the property was finalised by 2009 meant the planned sale to Mr O'Donnell, who lived "not far away" at Gorse Hill, did not proceed, Mr Fanning said.

This was because the contract for sale of the property entered into by Mr O'Donnell in 2007 contained a clause that provided that, if litigation concerning the property was not finalised by 2009, the sale did not proceed, the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was told.

Mr Fanning said this essentially amounted to a claim that a sale was lost "at the top of the market", but his side rejected that on grounds including that Mr O'Donnell would not have been in a position to close the sale in 2009 due to financial difficulties.

His side would also argue that the Colemans knew the 2009 deadline was approaching and could have settled the continuing litigation then, but chose not to.

Mr Fanning said litigation was brought against the owners of No 1 by a neighbour in Number 2, Ronnie Robbins.

In those proceedings, initiated in 2005, injunctions were sought compelling the owners to deal with alleged defects on their property which were said to be causing a nuisance for Mr Robbins and interfering with his enjoyment of the property.

That litigation led to several more sets of proceedings in which the owners of No 1 sued, among others, builders, engineers, project managers and insurers.

disclosure

Mr Fanning said his side's understanding was that six of those cases had completed with one pending against various insurance entities as well as the case against his clients.

The house is now on sale for a "modest" €12m, he added.

When Mr Justice Kearns said he may have dealt with earlier litigation concerning the property, Mr Fanning said there "may be few judges who have not".

The judge dealt with various disclosure of document issues in the proceedings before adjourning the matter to July for further case management.

A & L Goodbody denies any negligence and is also counter-claiming for some €237,000 of legal fees allegedly due and owing to it for work done between 2006 and 2011.

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