A bitter 10-year legal battle between two brothers over the ownership of a 1.8-hectare (4½-acre) farm in Co Clare has resulted in the Court of Appeal (COA) ruling to bar one sibling from further litigation in four different courts. Unless they get permission from the court to do so.
The litigation, which the High Court previously observed had incurred “extraordinary” legal costs compared to the value of the land, began in 2012 when Thomas Slattery sued his brother Joseph in the Circuit Court. Action was taken alleging eviction on lands near
In a three-judge Court of Appeal decision published this week, Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington said Thomas claimed the lands had been transferred to him by his parents, Matthew and Ann, in a December 1981 deed.
Under this, the parents reserved the right of occupancy for themselves in respect of certain portions of the lands. Following the death of the last surviving parent, Anne Slattery, in December 2010, Thomas was registered as the sole owner of the disputed land. In opposition to his brother’s claim of trespass, Joseph counterclaimed that he was the legal owner of the lands.
The circuit court found in favor of Thomas, barring Joseph’s trespass and dismissing the counterclaim. Joseph lost appeals against the decision in the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Joseph brought further circuit court proceedings for rectification of the title to the land to reflect his claim but these were dismissed on the ground that the issue of ownership had already been settled.
Thomas brought separate proceedings in the interim where he obtained an order restraining Joseph from trespassing on 0.08 hectares (0.2 acres) of land adjoining Manfield, which was formerly part of the West Clare railway line. Joseph lost a High Court appeal against the order in 2016.
Joseph then moved a fresh High Court proceeding and decreed that he was the rightful owner of the land. Thomas evicted these men again on the grounds that the ownership issue had been decided, and in what became known as the Isaac Wonder Order, further legalized his brother’s claim without the court’s permission. Stopped foraging.
The COA upheld the orders in 2019 on appeal and the Supreme Court declined to hear Joseph’s further appeal, observing that “a line now needs to be drawn within the litigation”.
“This matter was not over,” said Ms Justice Pilkington.
In March 2020, Joseph sought to raise the issues before Mr Justice Tony O’Connor of the High Court who, in July last year, ultimately refused the orders sought.
Joseph, representing himself, appealed the COA, making various claims, including that he was denied due process and natural justice at the initial Circuit Court hearing in 2012 and that prior An attempt was made to set aside the legal costs orders. The High Court observed in 2016 that the amount of legal expenses incurred on the farm is “extraordinary” when the value of the land is taken into account.
Thomas opposed the appeal and asked the COA to extend the terms of the Isaac Wonder order.
Ms Justice Pilkington dismissed all the grounds of appeal, saying they related to issues that had already been decided. The matter “must be settled” and the rights of Thomas, who has said he is old and in poor health, must be considered, as well as the rights of Joseph.
He said the COA would modify Isaac Wonder’s order barring Joseph from taking actions against his brother and certain state parties, including motions in the Circuit Court, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, until he is served by the court. Have not received leave from do so