Seán Dunne’s lawyer asks US judge to order new civil trial

Bankrupt developer seeks cut in €18m judgment ex-wife Gayle Killilea was ordered to pay

Sean Dunne leaves the US federal courthouse in May this year after giving testimony in his civil financial fraud trial. Photograph: Douglas Healey

Sean Dunne leaves the US federal courthouse in May this year after giving testimony in his civil financial fraud trial. Photograph: Douglas Healey

 

Bankrupt developer Seán Dunne’s lawyer asked the judge in his US civil trial Thursday to order a new trial or reduce the €18.1 million judgment a jury ordered his ex-wife Gayle Killilea to pay in June.

In his motion, lawyer Luke McGrath called the jury’s verdict, reached following three weeks of testimony, “irreconcilably inconsistent and otherwise deficient”. He accused the US bankruptcy trustee Richard Coan, who brought the case, and Mr Dunne’s creditors, including the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), of waging a campaign to impose pain on the Dunne family, including through “salacious claims made to the media”.

“At the outset, it is important to note that this process has been gruelling and the damage to the Dunne family – innocent family members, many of whom were not in any way named in this proceeding or any other – is irreparable,” Mr McGrath wrote.

Neither Mr Coan nor members of his law firm could be reached for comment late on Thursday afternoon.

Recover the funds

Mr Dunne moved to the US after his property businesses went bust during the Celtic Tiger meltdown and declared bankruptcy there in 2013. The bankruptcy court appointed Mr Coan trustee, and his job was to gather any remaining assets and distribute them to creditors, who are owed hundreds of millions of euro. Mr Coan concluded that Mr Dunne had given his then-wife tens of millions of euro in assets to prevent their seizure by creditors and sued the couple to recover the funds.

In June, a jury in Connecticut agreed that Mr Dunne had fraudulently transferred assets to Ms Killilea and ordered her to pay €18.1 million to the bankruptcy estate. In reaching their decision, they agreed with about half of Mr Coan’s allegations of fraudulent transfer, the largest of which was the sale of Walford, Ireland’s most expensive home.

Skirmished

In the months since the trial ended, the two sides have skirmished on a variety of issues.

Mr McGrath argued in his filing that a new trial or a judgment reduction was warranted because the jury’s verdicts were inconsistent with the law. He also asserted that a defence witness was improperly precluded from testifying on certain issues and the verdicts were contrary to the evidence. He further claimed that Mr Dunne did not actually own certain properties, including Walford, that the jury concluded he fraudulently transferred to Ms Killilea.

Mr McGrath criticised the trustee and creditors for what he said was their refusal to settle and accused them of pursing a “scorched earth strategy” in pursuit of Dunne family assets.

The two sides have held a number of settlement conferences since the verdict in June.