Woman claims she is wrongfully being made liable for €3.19m debt owed by ex-partner’s firm

Yvonne Cotter is seeking a High Court injunction to prevent a receiver being appointed to two Dublin properties she owns

A 65-year-old woman has claimed before the High Court that she is wrongfully being made personally liable by financial fund Everyday Finance for a €3.19 million debt owed by her ex-partner’s company.

The action has been brought by Yvonne Cotter, who claims that her signature was forged on a personal guarantee given in respect of monies advanced to a company called Top Quarries Ballinasloe Ltd, which she alleges was set up by her former partner, businessman William Jones.

Arising out of Everyday’s demand, she is seeking a High Court injunction preventing a receiver appointed by the fund from selling two rental properties she owns.

Ms Cotter, who works as a childminder, claims that earlier this month the receiver, insolvency practitioner Ken Tyrrell of PwC, has been appointed over her properties at Albert College Drive, Glasnevin and Newtown Park, Ballymun.

She said the loans for those properties were taken out with AIB and were later acquired by Everyday Finance. She had been repaying the mortgages and accepts that some €166,000 remains due and owing on those properties. Last March, Everyday issued demands in respect of those loans.

In a sworn statement to the High Court, she says she can redeem the loans out of her and her family’s savings. In April, Everyday issued a demand for €3.19 million for personal guarantees which she denies giving in respect of monies advanced to Top Quarries. She claims she is not liable for Top Quarries’s debts.

However, Everyday claims the two properties are security for the monies that it says are due in relation to the guarantee. Earlier this month, Everyday appointed Mr Tyrell as receiver over the two properties, both of which have been rented out. One of her adult children resides in the Glasnevin property.

Ms Cotter said she began a relationship in 2001 with Mr Jones, a family friend and Donegal-based businessman, a few years after her husband’s death. That relationship ended in 2011.

She said that while Mr Jones had been involved in dozens of companies during their relationship, she had no knowledge of these entities, has no personal experience in business, nor any involvement in any of the companies’ affairs. She discovered some years ago, and well after the relationship ended, that Mr Jones had listed her as an officer of firms she “had never heard of”.

Ms Cotter, who resides at Botanic Road, Glasnevin, alleges that Mr Jones “signed documents on her behalf without her knowledge” and used “undue influence” on her to sign documents that she had “neither read nor understood”. She claims that in 2005 Mr Jones bought a quarry in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, through Top Quarries.

She said that in 2010 AIB had served a demand on her for payment of €3.19 million. She was shocked by this but was told by Mr Jones to ignore the letter and that he would deal with it. She said that in 2015 she was provided with a document that purports to be a personal guarantee of €3.19 million from her and Mr Jones in respect of loans advanced to Top Quarries by AIB.

In a sworn statement to the court, she says that she never signed this document, which the receiver is now relying on, and that “somebody forged my signature”. A handwriting expert she retained said in a report that the is strong evidence to support the proposition that Ms Cooter did not write the signature in her name on the 2008 documents and that they are poor simulations of her general signature style.

She denies being liable for that debt but argues that even if she was presumptively liable for the Top Quarries debt, the effect of the 2010 demand means that Everyday’s claim is now statute-barred.

In her High Court challenge against Everyday Finance DAC and Mr Tyrrell, she seeks an injunction restraining the defendants from dealing with, taking possession of or selling the properties in Ballymun and Glasnevin pending the outcome of her action. She further seeks damages.

Represented by David Geoghegan Bl, Ms Cotter secured permission, on an ex-parte basis, from Mr Justice Brian O’Moore to serve short notice of the injunctive proceedings against Mr Tyrell and Everyday Finance. The judge made the matter returnable to a date next month.