Doyle Shipping and Stena on course to meet in court again

Irish company claims Stena has broken a verbal agreement on a €4m a year contract

Stena Line ferries. Earlier this month Doyle Shipping won an injunction allowing it to continue to provide services to Stena Line ferries docking in Dublin Port

Stena Line ferries. Earlier this month Doyle Shipping won an injunction allowing it to continue to provide services to Stena Line ferries docking in Dublin Port

 

Stevedore Doyle Shipping’s case against Stena Line was back in court recently, where a ruling on costs was reserved.

Earlier this month Doyle won an injunction allowing it to continue to provide services to Stena Line ferries docking in Dublin Port. Stena told Doyle last August that it was terminating a contract, worth €4 million annually to the Irish company, to provide services to the ferry company in Dublin.

However, Doyle maintains that this is in breach of a verbal agreement negotiated between the pair for the provision of those services until 2022. So the High Court ordered that Doyle continue to do the work until the case itself is tried. That will happen next year, and Stena is contesting Doyle’s claim on several grounds.

Interestingly, Doyle is relying on a 1988 High Court ruling, Pernod Ricard and Comrie plc v FII Fyffes. This will ring bells with students of both law and Irish corporate history as it features two high-profile business figures, financier Dermot Desmond and Jim Flavin, formerly of DCC fame.

In the Pernod case both the Supreme and High Courts upheld the argument that verbal agreements are binding.

The dispute sprang from the takeover battle for Irish Distillers. Flavin had agreed to sell Fyffes’ 20 per cent stake in the whiskey maker to Pernod. He shook hands on it with Desmond, the French group’s representative in the negotiations.

There was no written contract, and Grand Metropolitan subsequently offered more than Pernod for the Fyffes stake. However, the courts ruled that the law did not require the contract to be in writing, and that this was “merely a means of implementing a concluded bargain”. Pernod won the day.

It does not necessarily follow that the courts will find in Doyle Shipping’s favour – every case is different, not least those dealing with contract law.

What’s noteworthy is that the 1988 ruling still holds 30 years later. Purely coincidentally, bottles of whiskey changed hands at the end of the 2015 negotiations between the Stena and Doyle executives, although it was not an Irish Distillers brand.

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