Ennis Property Finance DAC v Murphy

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr Justice Max Barrett
Judgment Date10 October 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] IEHC 573
Docket Number2016 No. 2378S
CourtHigh Court
Date10 October 2017

[2017] IEHC 573

THE HIGH COURT

Barrett J.

2016 No. 2378S

Between:
ENNIS PROPERTY FINANCE DAC
Plaintiff
AND
RAYMOND MURPHY
Defendant

Banking and Finance-Summary Judgment – Discernible caution – Waiver of debt – Repayment of money – Bona fide defence.

Facts: The plaintiff sought an order for the summary judgment against the defendant. The plaintiff contended that the defendant had failed to pay the principal sum due and owing under the loan agreement. The defendant contended that the actions of the predecessor in interest to the plaintiffhad led the defendant to believe that he was not liable for the residual balance specially after the sale of assets that were subject to the loan agreement and thus, the case must go to plenary hearing.

Mr. Justice Max Barrett granted the summary judgment as sought by the plaintiff. The Court held that the power to grant summary judgment should be exercised with discernible caution and in order to send a matter for plenary hearing, the defence must have some reasonable foundation.

JUDGMENT of Mr Justice Max Barrett delivered on 10th October, 2017.
I. Background
1

These are summary proceedings for debt.

2

In or about December, 2004, Bank of Scotland (Ireland) (“BOSI”), the predecessor in interest to Ennis Property and Mr Murphy entered into an agreement, pursuant to which BOSI agreed to provide Mr Murphy with a loan facility in the amount of €855k (the “First Agreement”). The terms of the First Agreement were contained in a facility letter dated 17th December, 2004, executed by Mr Murphy on or about 20th December, 2004, and subject, inter alia, to BOSI's general terms and conditions. The terms of the said facility were amended by the parties by facility letters dated 15th May, 2008, and 19th July, 2010. The purpose of the loan facility was to fund the purchase of certain properties respectively in County Wicklow and the United Kingdom, and to fund related legal and professional fees arising.

3

The terms of the First Agreement provided, inter alia, that BOSI was entitled (1) to interest at a rate provided for in the First Agreement, (2) without the consent of Mr Murphy, to assign any of its rights and benefits under the First Agreement to any third party, (3) upon an event of default, to call for the immediate repayment of all monies payable and due plus accrued interest thereon.

4

In or about April 2006, BOSI and Mr Murphy entered into another agreement, pursuant to which BOSI agreed to provide Mr Murphy with a loan facility in the amount of UK £630k (the “Second Agreement”). The terms of the Second Agreement were contained in a facility letter dated 25th April, 2006, executed by Mr Murphy on or about 5th May 2006, and subject, inter alia, to BOSI's general terms and conditions. The terms of the said facility were amended by the parties by a facility letter dated 19th July, 2010. The purpose of the loan facility was to fund the purchase of a property in the United Kingdom, and to fund related arrangement and legal fees arising.

5

The terms of the Second Agreement provided, inter alia, that BOSI was entitled (1) to interest at a rate provided for in the Second Agreement, (2) without the consent of Mr Murphy, to assign any of its rights and benefits under the Second Agreement to any third party, (3) upon an event of default, (a) to call for the immediate repayment of all monies payable and due plus accrued interest thereon, (b) at its sole discretion, pending receipt of all monies due (including accrued interest), to convert all or part of the outstanding loan balance to a euro denominated amount.

6

In breach of the First Agreement and the Second Agreement, the loan periods under which expired on 31st December, 2010, Mr Murphy failed to make required quarterly interest payments and has failed to repay the principal sum owing. As a consequence of the failures aforesaid, letters of demand issued to Mr Murphy on 3rd June, 2016. A receiver was appointed over certain assets of Mr Murphy on 17th June, 2016. Following the appointment of the receiver, the defendant engaged in “without prejudice” correspondence with Mr Murphy. However, no agreement could be reached and fresh letters of demand issued on 23rd November, 2016. Despite the said demands, the amounts demanded have not been repaid and the defendant therefore commenced the within proceedings on 7th December, 2016.

II. Some General Legal Principles
7

Mr Murphy contends that in all the circumstances arising, adjudication on his debt ought to follow a plenary hearing. The hurdle that he must cross to succeed in having matters sent to plenary hearing is notably low. As Hardiman J. stated in the Supreme Court in Aer Rianta c.p.t. v. Ryanair Limited [2001] 4 I.R. 607, 623:

‘In my view, the fundamental questions to be posed on an application such as this remain: is it “very clear” that the defendant has no case? Is there either no issue to be tried or only issues which are simple and easily determined? Do the defendant's affidavits fail to disclose even an arguable defence?’

8

In Harrisrange Ltd. v. Duncan [2003] 4 I.R. 1, 7, McKechnie J. summarised as follows the relevant principles to be brought to bear when a court approaches the issue of whether to grant summary judgment or leave to defend:

‘(i) the power to grant summary judgment should be exercised with discernible caution;

(ii) in deciding upon this issue the court should look at the entirety of the situation and consider the particular facts of each individual case…

(iii) in so doing the court should assess not only the defendant's response, but also in the context of that response, the cogency of the evidence adduced on behalf of the plaintiff…

(iv) where truly there are no issues or issues of simplicity only or issues easily determinable, then this procedure is suitable for use;

(v) where, however, there are issues of fact which, in themselves, are material to success or failure, then their resolution is unsuitable for this procedure;

(vi) where there are issues of law, this summary process may be appropriate but only so if it is clear that fuller argument and greater thought is evidently not required for a better determination of such issues;

(vii) the test to be applied, as now formulated is whether the defendant has satisfied the court that he has a fair or reasonable probability of having a real or bona fide defence; or as it is sometimes put, “is what the defendant says credible?”

(viii) this test is not the same as and should not be elevated into a threshold of a defendant having to prove that his defence will probably succeed or that success is not improbable, it being sufficient if there is an arguable defence;

(ix) leave to defend should be granted unless it is very clear that there is no defence;

(x) leave to defend should not be refused only because the court has reason to doubt the bona fides of the defendant or has reason to doubt whether he has a genuine cause of action;

(xi) leave should not be granted where the only relevant averment is the totality of the evidence, is a mere assertion of a given situation which is to form the basis of a defence and finally;

(xii) the overriding determinative factor, bearing in mind the constitutional basis of a person's right of access to justice either to assert or respond to litigation, is the achievement of a just result whether that be liberty to enter judgment or leave to defend, as the case may be.’

9

Worth mentioning also in this regard, in light of the various contentions averred to, and referred to in...

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2 cases
  • Havbell DAC v Hilliard
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 6 December 2019
    ...was clear from the Close Invoice case cited above and from the subsequent decision of Barrett J. in Ennis Property Finance DAC v. Murphy [2017] IEHC 573. It was submitted that the mere assertion by the defendants that the receiver had not properly accounted for the rents received by him, wa......
  • Bank of Ireland Mortgage Bank v Butterly
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 30 January 2018
    ...fair or reasonable probability of the defendants having a real or bona fide defence.’ 18 The plaintiffs opened the case of Ennis Property Finance DAC v. Raymond Murphy [2017] IEHC 573, where it was posited by the defendant that the receiver did not comply with his duties in common law or st......

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