Man taking case against solicitor Kean ‘on a vendetta’, tribunal told

Gerald Kean accused of failing to uphold duty of care

Gerald Kean pictured at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in November 2013. Photograph: Alan Betson

Gerald Kean pictured at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in November 2013. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A man taking misconduct proceedings against solicitor Gerald Kean was “on a vendetta to expose the legal profession”, it was claimed at a hearing of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday.

The allegations had been made “maliciously” by Christopher O’Neill, Drumsna, Co Leitrim, Mr Kean’s barrister and brother Richard Kean added in his closing remarks on the third and final day of evidence yesterday.

However, refuting that claim, Mr O’Neill said: “Anybody following the actual line of paperwork would see the light as opposed to the darkness that has been thrown up by the respondent’s counsel.”

The case stemmed from litigation brought against Mr O’Neill by Ballycotton Marine Services Ltd in 2005.

He had been unhappy with repairs carried out on a boat he owned and, with a view to taking legal action, sought analysis from Ballycotton Marine Services. However, its engineer would not testify and when Mr O’Neill received an invoice for the report, he refused to pay, citing breach of contract.

After the surveyors initiated legal action to pursue the fee, Mr O’Neill claims he instructed Mr Kean to represent him and was told by the solicitor that “everything was in hand”.

However, he lost the case and received a summary judgment in the post instructing him to pay €1,067.

The resulting allegations against Mr Kean are that he failed to submit a notice to defend the civil summons and that he failed to lodge an appeal and knowingly misled Mr O’Neill in both regards. He is also accused of failing to inform Mr O’Neill that he would not be representing him and of failing to uphold a duty of care. Mr Kean said yesterday he had verbally advised his former client to pay the company, that he could not ignore the bill simply because he did not like the report.

Mr Kean admitted he had offered €500 as a settlement in the case but had not consulted his client as the amount was less than what was sought.

He was asked why he proceeded to pay the full amount when Mr O’Neill denied having known that it was going to be paid. “The way I finished my conversation with Mr O’Neill was that I was going to pay it and he would repay me; he even thanked me for it.”

He said paying money owed from legal proceedings upfront on behalf of clients was normal and he had done it on numerous occasions.

Tribunal chairman Boyce Shubotham asked Mr Kean to explain the purpose of a letter drafted to the Circuit Court office outlining an intention to appeal even though the statute of limitation had passed.

Mr Kean said he had been attempting to use leverage in negotiating a settlement and could not be certain he had actually sent the letter to the Circuit Court office.

His barrister said no specific breach of the professional code had been alleged and that the tribunal could not find generic misconduct.

Mr O’Neill asked for consideration of the fact that he was representing himself.

The findings will be issued at a later date.