The High Court has ruled that a co-op is entitled to a judgment of €125,000 against a haulier over a failure to pay for agricultural goods.
Mr Justice Garret Simons said Lakeland Dairies Co-operative Society Ltd was entitled to summary judgment against Aidan Hand, who had been supplied with foodstuffs and other products by the company on credit between May and October 2018.
The judge said Mr Hand accepts in principle that he is indebted to Lakeland, and that he received the goods.
Mr Hand had resisted the judgment application because he wants to bring a counterclaim over an alleged breach of a separate contract for haulage services provided that had existed between the parties.
The judge said while Lakeland, of Lough Egish, Co Monaghan, was entitled to the amount sought plus interest, the court's decision does not preclude Mr Hand from pursuing, in separate proceedings, his claim for damages arising out of the alleged breach of contract.
The parties, the judge said, had done business together, which was governed by two contracts, one for the supply of goods to Mr Hand.
The second involved Mr Hand, of Magoney, Inniskeen, Dundalk, Co Louth, supplying trucks and trailers, painted in the livery of Lakeland Dairies, to transport goods for the co-op.
Mr Hand maintains that monies due to him under the haulage services contract would be used to defray amounts owed by him for the goods, the judge said.
The judge said that arrangement regarding haulage came to an end in “disputed circumstances” in August 2018, resulting in a counterclaim for damages by Mr Hand.
The judge said that while Mr Hand accepted that he withdrew all haulage services to Lakelands, the defendant maintains it was a temporary measure, and not intended to be permanent.
The services, Mr Hand claims, were withdrawn pending an investigation into his complaint that a large number of jobs from Lakeland were reduced, and that a Lakelands employee sought an improper cash payment from Mr Hand.
A complaint was made to the Garda about that matter, which is ongoing. However, an internal investigation by Lakeland found the claim was unsupported by evidence, the judge noted.
It was not a matter for the court in this action to attempt to resolve any disputes over the haulage contract, the judge said.
The central issue to be determined in the co-op’s application for summary judgment was would it be inequitable to delay Lakelands from recovering what was in effect an admitted debt, the judge said.
He said he was satisfied not to stay entering judgment against Mr Hand pending the outcome of his counterclaim.
The nature of the defendant’s counterclaim, which the judge said is being strongly contested by Lakeland, was “too vague”.
He added that there was also a lack of detail including a failure to quantify the monetary loss Mr Hand alleges he has suffered.
“Crucially”, there was no attempt made by the defendant to address the notice period which either side would be required to give to terminate the contract for haulage services.
The length of the notice period would be a very significant factor in assessing the value of the counterclaim, he said.