Mallett & Son [Antiques] Ltd -v- Rogers, [2005]IEHC 131 (2005)

Docket Number:2002 1282 P
Party Name:Mallett & Son [Antiques] Ltd, Rogers
Judge:Quirke J.
 
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Neutral Citation No. [2005] IEHC 131THE HIGH COURT[2002 No. 1282 P]BETWEENMALLETT AND SON (ANTIQUES) LIMITEDPLAINTIFFAND

RORY ROGERSDEFENDANTJUDGMENT of Quirke J. delivered on the 12th day of May, 2005.

The plaintiff is a limited liability company registered in the United Kingdom which specialises in the purchase and sale of antique furniture and paintings.

The defendant carried on a business which includes the restoration and sale of antique furniture from premises at Shelbourne Road in the city of Dublin 4.

The plaintiff claims that on 30th January, 2000, it purchased a Queen Anne red lacquered bureau bookcase from the defendant for the sum of STG£80,000 on foot of an agreement which had been entered into on 28th January, 2000, between the defendant and Mr. Lanto Synge on behalf of the plaintiff.

The plaintiff claims further that it carried out extensive restoration work on the bookcase at a total cost of STG£31,533 at a time when the defendant knew that the plaintiff intended to restore the bookcase and to put it up for sale for profit.

It is claimed on behalf of the plaintiff that the bookcase had been stolen from its lawful owner in or around 1990 and that consequently the defendant never had the right to sell the bookcase and never had any interest in or title to the bookcase.

On or about the 8th August, 2001, the bookcase was released into the possession of its lawful owner and it is claimed that the plaintiff is now entitled to repayment of the sum of STG£80,000 being money paid to the defendant upon a consideration which has wholly failed. The sum of STG£31,533 is claimed as damages arising from a breach the agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

I am satisfied on the evidence and on the balance of probabilities as follows:

  1. In 1990 a robbery occurred at the estate of Lord Roden in Newcastle in County Down. During the course of the robbery some paintings and valuable items of furniture were stolen including a Queen Anne red lacquered bureau bookcase (circa 1720) which is the subject of these proceedings.

  2. During the last week of January, 2000, the defendant contacted Mr Lanto Synge, of the plaintiff company and told him that he had come across a piece of furniture of considerable interest. The defendant was known to Mr. Synge and had transacted business on previous occasions with him. Mr. Synge had satisfied himself that the defendant was a reputable and trustworthy business man. The defendant told Mr. Synge that it would be worth his while travelling to Dublin to see the piece of furniture concerned.

    Mr. Synge flew to Dublin on or about the 28th January, 2000. He was met at the airport by the defendant and his brother Brian and brought to premises in Francis Street.

    That premises were occupied by Mr. Sean Eacrett and Mr. Fintan Daly who were furniture restorers and dealers who used the premises as a workshop.

  3. When Mr. Synge entered the premises with the defendant and his brother he was shown the bureau bookcase. The only other person present was Mr. Eacrett. There was no conversation between Mr. Eacrett and Mr. Synge. I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that nothing was said by Mr. Eacrett to Mr. Rogers in the presence of Mr. Synge which would have identified the provenance of the bookcase.

    Mr. Synge remained in the workshop for no more than 5 minutes before leaving the premises with the defendant and his brother.

  4. Immediately after they left the premises the defendant and Mr. Synge engaged in a negotiation which concluded with the defendant entering into an agreement to sell the bureau bookcase to the plaintiff for the sum of STG£80,000. During the course of that negotiation Mr. Synge made it known to the defendant that the plaintiff intended to purchase the bureau bookcase for re-sale and would carry out a comprehensive and expensive restoration of the bureau bookcase for that purpose. The defendant acknowledged that this would be necessary and would take a considerable period of time.

    The negotiations took place in the defendant's motor vehicle which was parked outside the Francis Street premises at all material times.

  5. Earlier that week on 26th January, 2000, the defendant and his brother Brian had entered into negotiations with Mr. Eacrett and Mr. Daly seeking to purchase the bureau bookcase.

    The defendant's offer of £40,000 had been declined. IR£60,000 was the asking price. The defendant had told Mr. Eacrett that he had a potential buyer from England and after some discussion Mr. Eacrett had agreed to allow the defendant to show the bookcase to his potential buyer in Francis Street.

    .

    Accordingly when the defendant brought Mr. Synge into the Francis Street premises on the 28th January, for the purpose of viewing the bookcase Mr. Eacrett, who was present, was aware that it was the defendant's intention to enter into immediate negotiations with Mr. Synge directed towards entering into an agreement which would enable the defendant to purchase the bookcase from Mr. Eacrett for IR£60,000.

  6. Mr. Synge was aware or ought to have been aware at all material times that the purchase of the bookcase from the defendant for a sum of STG£80,000 was...

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