High Court dismisses €20m relocation claim

Sat, Feb 23, 2013, 00:00

An action by a former laboratory technician at the State Laboratory, claiming €20 million compensation after the lab relocated from Dublin to Co Kildare, has been dismissed after a High Court judge ruled it was “premised on a misunderstanding” and “bound to fail”.

Justin Harmon claimed he had a valid contract entitling him to €20 million following the State Laboratory’s relocation in 2005 from Abbotstown to Backweston Laboratory Campus, Celbridge.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan yesterday granted an application to strike out Mr Harmon’s claim on grounds that no reasonable cause of action had been disclosed and the case was bound to fail.

Mr Harmon, Phibsboro, Dublin, took the action against the Minister for Finance, the State Chemist of the State Laboratory, Ireland and the Attorney General, who rejected his compensation claims.

Elizabeth Cogan, for the defendants, said no such contract as alleged was ever entered into, the claim was an abuse of process and was frivolous and vexatious.

Mr Harmon, representing himself, argued that his case should be allowed to go to a full hearing. He had a lawful claim which was of public interest and gave rise to a legitimate action in law, he argued.

He had an enforceable and valid contract based on correspondence from his employers and the fact he had agreed to move when the lab relocated, he added. His claim was “clear, simple and straightforward” and his action was not contrary to the interests of justice.

2005 correspondence

Mr Justice Gilligan said the claim appeared to be based on correspondence in 2005 between Mr Harmon and his employer’s human resources department in which Mr Harmon wrote he would agree to relocate to Celbridge if he was paid €20 million.

He said that correspondence concerned a separate work-related matter but Mr Harmon believed a reply from human resources, acknowledging receipt of his letter, amounted to a valid contract or term of his employment. Mr Justice Gilligan added that he did not accept the case raised an issue of public importance.