Disciplinary tribunal rules Kean, who denies the allegations, has 'case to answer'
Solicitor Gerald Kean “has a case to answer” in relation to allegations of misconduct against him, a solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal has been told.
The allegations have been brought by Christopher O’Neill, Drumsna, Co Leitrim, and stem from litigation brought against Mr O’Neill by marine surveyors Ballycotton Marine Services Ltd in 2005.
Mr O’Neill had been unhappy with repairs carried out on a timber ship of his and, with a view to taking legal action, he sought a review of the repairs by a marine engineer with Ballycotton Marine Services.
After this review it emerged the engineer did not wish to testify in court, so Mr O’Neill was obliged to find another engineer to carry out a second review of the repairs. This led to delays and additional costs, Mr O’Neill said at yesterday’s hearing. When he received an invoice from Ballycotton Marine Services he refused to pay, on grounds of a breach of contract.
When the surveyors initiated legal action against him, Mr O’Neill says, he instructed Mr Kean to represent him. Mr O’Neill claims he was subsequently told by Mr Kean that “everything was in hand” and he need not attend court.
Mr O’Neill lost the case and received a summary judgment in the post instructing him to pay €1,067 to Ballycotton Marine Services. He also claims he instructed Mr Kean to lodge an appeal in relation to the matter.
The allegations against Mr Kean on which the tribunal found him to have “a case to answer” are that he failed to submit a notice to defend the civil summons in relation to the fee to Ballycotton Marine Services and that he knowingly misled Mr O’Neill in this regard, he failed to lodge an appeal and knowingly misled Mr O’Neill in this regard, he failed to inform Mr O’Neill he would not be representing him and he failed to uphold a duty of care.
Sworn evidence Richard Kean SC, on behalf of Mr Kean, put it to Mr O’Neill that he was being “dishonest” in relation to some of his sworn evidence to the tribunal.
He outlined a series of litigations taken by Mr O’Neill in the past including previous complaints about solicitors to the solicitors’ disciplinary tribunal. He said his “ entire credibility is undermined”.
A number of letters written by Mr O’Neill to Mr Kean seeking clarification on the progress of his case contained some verbal abuse, the tribunal heard. Mr O’Neill claimed he would have accepted an apology had he “acknowledged his mistake” but that instead the solicitor had called him “a liar, a blackmailer and a fraudster”.