Couple sue auctioneers for sale ‘mayhem’
Vendors say people were loading trolleys and barrows ‘taking anything they could’
The Four Courts, Dublin: a closing-down sale of thousands of stock items from a gardening and decor centre turned into a “free-for-all”, it was alleged in the court yesterday. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins
A public auction for a closing- down sale of thousands of stock items from a gardening and decor centre turned into a “free-for-all” because of lack of proper supervision, it has been alleged at the High Court.
People were walking out with goods under their arms and had to be challenged to put them back, Mr Crowley said. Others were loading up wheelbarrows and trolleys “taking anything they could”.
“Mayhem had broken out.”
The Crowleys are suing Wilsons Car Auctions, Newtownabbey, Co Down, alleging negligence and breach of duty at the auction held in the centre a few days after it ceased trading in February 2004.
Wilson Auctions denies the claim and counter-claimed that the Crowleys were liable to the company for clearing out the property, reinstalling CCTV security equipment which it is alleged should not have been removed, and alleged wrongful retention of certain items from the centre.
The court heard the Crowleys had agreed to sell their business, plus their adjoining home at Kingswood, for €4.75 million to Wilsons. Mr Crowley was scaling down his business because of heart problem. The sale went ahead by private treaty and the business was later relocated to Monasterevin, Co Kildare.
As Wilsons was in the auctioneering business, it was suggested and agreed by Mr Crowley that the stock should be sold by Wilsons, along with the Crowley home contents.
The stock consisted of thousands of gardening items, including expensive granite, terracotta and wooden furniture.
The Crowleys claim much of it was sold for well below the minimum 50 per cent of retail price agreed with Wilsons.
James Dwyer SC, for the Crowleys, said they were claiming the auction should have realised €620,000 and Wilsons had only paid €170,000.
There was no proper organisation or supervision on the day of the auction, which was “chaotic”, Mr Dwyer said.
He said he saw Wilsons operations manager Ricky Wilson in the 12,000sq m yard with about six people following him. He came to an antique granite trough, worth €800 or €900, and asked if anyone would bid him €50. “There were one or two more bids and it was sold for €150.”
The case continues before Ms Justice Marie Baker.