Ireland’s Byrne Wallace appeals against €17.7m claim in Supreme Court

Irish firm Byrne Wallace is set to appear in the country’s Supreme Court this week in a bid to overturn a finding of professional negligence that led to a €17.7m damages bill.

The firm is appealing against a judgment handed down last year by Mr Justice McGovern, in which legacy firm BCM Hanby Wallace was found to have been negligent in property transactions in 2005, 2006 and 2007. McGovern J ruled that the total damages for which BCM Hanby Wallace was liable for amounted to €17.7m – less than original estimates of €25m.

The case hinges on loans made to two individuals, John Kelly and Thomas Byrne, worth a total of €23.9m. BCM Hanby Wallace was retained to investigate title and ensure security over each loan, including obtaining a fixed charge against a total of 30 properties as security for the loans.

KBC claimed that the firm failed to obtain security in respect of 27 properties, and as a result, the bank said it had suffered “very substantial losses due to its inability to realise its security coupled with the substantial devaluation of the properties”.

In a judgment handed down on 16 March 2012, McGovern J found the firm had breached its duty to its client. He also found that BCM Hanby Wallace had deceived the bank, despite this not being an argument made by KBC in court.

Speaking to The Lawyer last year (18 June 2012), many Irish lawyers said they were shocked by the deception ruling and some said McGovern J had gone too far in making it.

McGovern J went on to rule on the damages on 6 July 2012. The parties had agreed a damages schedule for all but two properties, and following the judge’s ruling, total damages were fixed at €17,694,130.70.

In the Supreme Court Byrne Wallace will be represented by Cork firm Ronan Daly Jermyn. The firm’s counsel are Paul Gallagher SC and John Gleeson SC, leading Una Tighe BL.

Arthur Cox partner Andy Lenny has instructed Michael Collins SC, Maurice Collins SC and Caren Geoghegan BL for KBC.

The hearing is set down for three days beginning today, Monday 11 March. It will be heard by Mr Justices Fennelly, O’Donnell and McKechnie.

Byrne Wallace declined to comment.