Solicitor's children appeal ruling on contents of house

 

THE ADULT children of solicitor Brian O’Donnell are appealing to the Supreme Court against a decision permitting fast-tracking of a legal action by Bank of Ireland against them over ownership of the contents of the family’s luxury home in Killiney, Co Dublin.

The action arises from the bank’s efforts to enforce a €75 million judgment against Mr O’Donnell and his wife.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday refused as “without merit” an application by senior counsel Ross Maguire, for Blake, Bruce, Blaise and Alexandra O’Donnell, to stay the judge’s order allowing the case to proceed before the Commercial Court, pending the Supreme Court appeal.

The stay application indicated no arguable basis for an appeal and a stay would sterilise the case until the Supreme Court could deal with the appeal, which was likely to be some time, he said.

He earlier told Mr Maguire to “rein in your tongue” arising from using “intemperate language” when seeking the stay, a reference to Mr Maguire describing the offspring as placed in an “intolerable” position as non-commercial people facing commercial litigation involving “prohibitive” costs.

Senior counsel Paul Gardiner, for Bank of Ireland, said the stay application was “truly astonishing” in a context where the bank had no advance notice of it.

Despite having had overnight to consider the bank’s claims that Mr O’Donnell and his son Blake “concocted a web of untruth” about a “critical” email concerning an alleged trust, there was no denial of those claims.

The stay application was made after the court heard the children and their parents would give undertakings not to dissipate the contents of the Killiney house, Gorse Hill, or of a second luxury property in London, where Mr O’Donnell and his wife are living. Those undertakings apply pending the outcome of the bank’s action over ownership of those contents.

The bank this week appointed a receiver over Vico Ltd, the firm that allegedly owns Gorse Hill in trust for the children. The bank claims the trust is non-existent, or “a sham”.

The O’Donnells have claimed the total value of the contents of both properties is about €150,000 and the offspring have appealed to the Supreme Court against another order by Mr Justice Kelly permitting solicitors for the bank to enter Gorse Hill to take an inventory of its contents.

The bank sought that inventory arising from its concerns over evidence by Mr O’Donnell during examination about his assets. When asked about statements of net worth for himself and his wife where valuations of €5 million to €7.5 million were placed on their art and antique collection, Mr O’Donnell described the valuations as “ludicrous” and “a mistake”.

The bank, which noted Mr O’ Donnell referred in other statements of net worth to having a “substantial” art collection, initiated the proceedings on April 30th last to establish ownership of the contents of the two properties. These are against all the O’Donnells and three companies.

During the hearing of the application to fast-track the proceedings on Thursday, Mr Gardiner said the bank did not believe what it had heard from Mr O’Donnell during his court examination, and alleged Mr O’Donnell and Blake O’Donnell constructed “a web of untruth” about the existence of an email regarding crucial trust documents.

Yesterday, Mr Gardiner said he understood lawyers for the couple and their children had received no instructions overnight about the email situation. While the bank was prepared to accept the undertakings not to dissipate assets, it wanted to be told whether the children were asserting beneficial ownership of the Gorse Hill contents.

Mr Maguire said he needed time to take instructions on the children’s position regarding the contents. He was making no concession on the email claims.

He later said he was appealing the order fast-tracking the case on grounds the contents issue was not commercial litigation, there was a breach of court rules arising from the bank’s solicitors emailing the court and the costs of commercial court litigation were prohibitive.

The judge said none of those grounds amounted to any basis for a stay.