Dalkey resident ‘lied’ and tried to hide oil leak evidence, court told
Woman who had to move out of her home for two years sues neighbour for damages
Tracey Davies, of Syliz, Dalkey Avenue, Dublin, has sued her neighbour, Margaret O’Leary, who lives in a house on a raised area behind Ms Davies’ home. Photograph: Dave Meehan
A woman is seeking damages in the High Court after she had to move out of her home for more than two years following a leak from a neighbour’s heating oil tank.
Tracey Davies, a teacher and mother of one of Syliz, Dalkey Avenue, Dublin, has sued her neighbour Margaret O’Leary who lives in a house, called Scarsdale, on a raised area behind Ms Davies’ home. The properties are close to Killiney Hill Park.
Ms O’Leary, represented in court by her insurer, denied liability for damages as there had been a settlement of €90,748 for the costs of repairing Ms Davies home, plus further payment for having to live in rented accommodation for two years and two months. Mr Justice Charles Meenan has reserved judgment.
Ms Davies told the court the leak occurred one morning in January 2013 when she first noticed a smell in her lounge. When she returned from work, it was much worse and her paved area was covered in liquid which smelled like petrol.
One of her neighbours assisted her in establishing it was an oil leak and she approached two whom she knew used oil to heat their homes. The first met with her and checked his tank and nothing was found.
When she rang the intercom for Scarsdale, Ms O’Leary answered but did not open her gate.
“I asked would there be any chance her oil was leaking and she said no, that she would know if there was, but she would get it checked.”
Ms Davies said she returned home and within an hour she saw, from an upstairs bedroom, a number of men looking around Ms O’Leary’s property. The smell was so bad that night she had to sleep in her parents’ home with her daughter and they did not sleep in their home again for more than another two years.
The following morning, she phoned Ms O’Leary and told her about the men she had seen and asked had they discovered a leak.
“She said there is no oil leaking, go find your source elsewhere.”
Ms Davies has pet dogs which had to remain at the property and the following Tuesday night, while taking them for a walk, she saw a jeep with an extended hose pipe emptying the O’Leary oil tank. She said she phoned Ms O’Leary and asked had she found the oil leak.
“She said there is no oil leak, the tank is being emptied as a precaution.”
Within five minutes, Ms Davies said she got a phone call from Ms O’Leary’s son, Jarlath, who “reiterated there was no oil leaking and the emptying of the tank was solely precautionary”.
She said that, when Jarlath asked her if, when Ms Davies was getting building work done on her house, the bedrock had been excavated, “that confirmed they were lying to me”.
‘Disbelief and anger’
The following day surveyors and loss adjusters from Ms O’Leary’s insurance company came out, she said. She was in a state of disbelief but also upset and angry at Ms O’Leary.
“I had been deliberately lied to and they tried to take away the evidence of the leak and hoped I was not going to find out or pursue how my property had been damaged.”
She said there followed various testing and drilling by an environmental company hired by Ms O’Leary’s insurers and nearly two years before Ms Davies’ builder carried out restoration work following a settlement on the cost. The work included having to cut up the ground floor of the house “like a piece of fudge” without damaging the substructure of the dwelling, the court heard.
In the meantime, Ms Davies had to rent properties in Newtownpark Avenue, Sandyford and Glenageary.
In legal submissions, Mr Banim, for Ms Davies, argued she was entitled to damages arising out of the manner in which she had been dealt with, particularly at the beginning.
Asked by the judge why she signed the settlement agreement, counsel said “because she wanted to get back into the house.”
Finbarr Fox SC, for Ms O’Leary’s insurer, argued there should not be an award for general damages as the claim had been met by the house being restored.