Tuesday 24 February 2009

Bill for 'defects' in 700 homes could be €60m

ONE of the country's biggest developers has told a court he could be facing €60m of compensation claims from as many as 759 potential lawsuits over alleged building defects.

Menolly Homes, which is owned by developer Seamus Ross, is seeking an "unusual" court order granting him protection from claims for compensation and repair works.

Hundreds of homeowners claim their walls and floors are "heaving and cracking" because of allegedly defective quarrying material used to build their houses.

The mammoth court battle between Menolly Homes and the Lagan Group, who provided infill used to build houses in three estates in north Dublin, is being watched by hundreds of households, many of whom are poised to sue over "serious damage" to their homes.

The proceedings have been brought by four construction companies -- Hansfield Developments, Viking Construction, Menolly Properties and Menolly Homes -- against three companies in the Lagan group --Irish Asphalt Limited, Lagan Holdings Ltd and Lagan Construciton Ltd. The court order sought by Menolly Homes and related companies arises from alleged structural defects in houses on three estates, Drynam Hall in Kinsealy, Beaupark in Clongriffin and Myrtle in Baldoyle.

In the proceedings it is claimed that aggregate infill bought from Irish Asphalt Limited (IAL) was used in the construction of all three estates and was also used under common areas such as footpaths and roads. It is alleged to have contained unacceptable excessive levels of pyrite. The infill used by Menolly was sourced from Bay Lane, a Lagan-owned quarry near Kilshane in Dublin, but IAL rejects claims that defects in houses were caused by its quarrying material.

"The only common denominator, the only constant feature in the damaged houses is the presence of Bay Lane material," Brian O'Moore, Senior Counsel for Menolly Homes told the Commercial Court yesterday.

Mr O'Moore also said that "there was something quite rotten" in the development of the Bay Lane quarry and said that a former executive at Irish Alsphalt, would say in evidence that the board of the Lagan Group was informed that the aggregate material was not fit for use. It is also claimed that in the course of applying for planning permission for the quarry, one of IAL's own geology and soils experts had data on aggregate testing conducted by Lagan witheld from him.

Professor Geoffrey Walton, who will not give evidence, is alleged to have claimed in a letter that he was advised that Lagan was not willing to disclose certain findings because of "indiscreet competitors".

Prior to problems emerging in 2005, Menolly Homes built more than 14,000 houses under the HomeBond scheme, which provides structural defect cover for new homes. Two experts were yesterday sworn in as assessors to assist the presiding judge, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan.

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor
Irish Independent


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