A doctor has won his appeal against the High Court's rejection of his claim Ulster Bank wrongly appopriated some €667,000 monies in a deposit account to set off against his disputed liability concerning a €3.4 million loan.
The matter will now go back to the High Court for a rehearing.
Neil Healy claimed he was released from his guarantee of the €3.4 million loan during a meeting in 2007 with an Ulster Bank official.
A three-judge Supreme Court unanimously upheld arguments by Mr Healy the High Court “failed to engage” with evidence of Mr Healy’s mother Maria, which was supportive of Dr Healy’s account of being given certain assurances by the bank official.
Dr Healy, with an address at Lough Sheever Corporate Park, Mullingar, Westmeath, planned to develop an old hospital facility at Coole in Westmeath in 2005 with a medical colleague. They secured a €3.4 million loan from Ulster Bank Ireland and both provided guarantees for the borrowings.
Following disagreements, they later agreed in 2007 to terminate the arrangement on the basis of Dr Healy receiving €2.2 million and his ex-partner taking over the assets and liabilities of the partnership.
The bank claimed Dr Healy’s liability for the original loan was still in place and, in August 2008, deducted €667,210 from the €2.2 million against the debit balance outstanding on the €3.4 million.
Dr Healy claimed the bank had no right to do that. He claimed, following the deal terminating the Coole partnership, Dr Healy asked Alan Leech, relationship manager at the Mullingar branch, during a meeting on August 1st, 2007 what interest rates he could secure on the €2.2 million.
He claimed Mr Leech told him he was “in the clear” in relation to his liability for the Coole project and he then deposited the €2.2 million with Ulster Bank.
Mr Healy’s mother Maria gave evidence she attended the meeting in August 2007, Mr Leech told her son he was “in the clear” with the bank and all three went for a “celebratory” lunch after that meeting. In its 2009 decision, the High Court rejected Dr Healy’s case.
Giving the Supreme Court judgment, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said the High Court erred in failing to engage with Mrs Healy’s evidence, which did not appear to have been challenged by the bank.
No alternative reason for a “celebratory” lunch was suggested other than Dr Healy had been bought out by his partner and deposited the proceedings with the bank on the terms he suggested so that “for a brief period at least, everyone was happy”.
Mr Justice Hardiman said the case hinged on what was said to induce Dr Hesly to deposit funds in Ulster Bank in August 2007. There was no conflict of evidence in the literal sense where two witnesses swore two conflicting accounts. Instead, there was clear evidence of both Healys in support of the assusrances alleged to have been given. Mr Leech’s evidence to the effect he did not recollect the conversation, was vague about it, did not recall Mrs Healy being present and it would not have been within his authority, or custom and practice, to give the alleged assurances.
There was a “curious” cross-examination of Mrs Healy in that it was not directly put to her she was not at the meeting. Her description of the lunch, which it was agreed she had attended, as a “celebratory” one had also not been challenged by the bank.
Because there was a failure by the High Court to engage with this “significant” element of the evidence, the appeal woud be allowed and the matter remitted to the High Court for reconsideration. The loan involved had since been sold to another party and the case may have to be reonstituted, the court added.