‘Far-reaching vexatious claims’ a ‘regular’ feature’ in certain cases, judge says

Case arising from efforts to recover €2.3m property loans debt ‘an example of such litigation’

Mr Justice Twomey said claims that the appointment of a receiver is “a new phenomenon” contrary to the Constitution was “entirely incorrect” as the power to appoint a receiver had existed since at least 1881. Photograph: iStock

Mr Justice Twomey said claims that the appointment of a receiver is “a new phenomenon” contrary to the Constitution was “entirely incorrect” as the power to appoint a receiver had existed since at least 1881. Photograph: iStock

 

A High Court judge has said “far-reaching vexatious claims” designed to frustrate receiverships or the realisation of security after default on loans, have unfortunately become a “regular feature” of certain litigation before the courts.

Mr Justice Michael Twomey, in a judgment halting Séamus Duffy’s case arising from efforts to recover a €2.3 million debt on foot of loans to buy properties in Louth and Monaghan, said the case was an example of such litigation.

Mr Duffy, a personal litigant, with addresses at Longfield, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan and Saunders Road, Spencer Dock, Dublin, initiated proceedings in 2018 against Permanent TSB, Havbell DAC, a fund which took over Mr Duffy’s PTSB loans, and Aidan Murphy, a receiver appointed by Havbell.

PTSB entered no appearance and, in a pre-trial application, Havbell and Mr Murphy sought orders striking out the case.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Twomey concluded there was no evidence to support the claims by Mr Duffy and they were “mere assertions lacking any credible basis”.

The claims are “frivolous and vexatious” insofar as they encompass a wide range of very serious allegations against the defendants completely unsubstantiated by any documentary evidence in the case, he said.

He had “no hesitation” striking out the case as bound to fail and frivolous and vexatious.

He also granted the defendants’ application to vacate a lis pendens, a legal claim, registered by Mr Duffy over certain lands in Co Louth.

Final orders will be made after the sides have considered his judgment.

Case background

Outlining the background, the judge noted PTSB had in 2007 and 2008 extended loan facilities to Mr Duffy and his wife Yvonne in respect of lands in Dundalk, Co Louth, and Castleblayney, leading to an outstanding debt of some €2.3 million.

The couple failed to repay the loans, which, with the mortgage, were transferred by PTSB to Havbell.

After Mr Murphy, as receiver, took steps to sell the properties, Mr Duffy initiated his case in June 2018 and registered the lis pendens.

While it was hard to summarise Mr Duffy’s “multiple” claims, his case broadly sought to challenge the validity of the receivership and alleged breach of his data protection rights, the judge said.

The outcome of the case is dependent on the contractual documentation and it is not a case where evidence is likely to change before trial, he added.

After Mr Duffy had not appeared in court on July 1st, the first hearing date set for this application, it was adjourned to July 9th when Mr Duffy also failed to attend, either physically or remotely.

The judge was satisfied Mr Duffy was aware of the hearing and it proceeded. Noting Mr Duffy’s lis pendens was impeding the property sale, he said it was important justice is not prevented by “the simple expedient of a lay litigant not turning up in court”.

The judge noted loan acceptance letters were signed by Mr and Mrs Duffy concerning the loans, secured on nine properties, seven in Dundalk and two in Castleblayney.

He said claims by Mr Duffy that the appointment of a receiver is “a new phenomenon” contrary to the Constitution was “entirely incorrect” as the power to appoint a receiver had existed since at least 1881. Other claims concerning the family home were mere assertions as the family home was not the subject of these proceedings.

Addressing claims concerning alleged breach of property rights, he said the documents made clear that, under the mortgage, Havbell has the right to sell the mortgage property.

There was not a “shred of evidence” in support of the claims of alleged breaches of data and privacy rights, he added.

There is no evidence to support his claims and it is clear his case is bound to fail, the judge concluded.