CASSIDY Brothers Concrete Products Ltd., the Donegal firm at the centre of the defective blocks scandal has lodged objections to homeowner lawsuits in the Commercial Court, citing the statute of limitations and the nature of the funding of the cases as part of their defence.
The building materials supplier at the centre of the defective blocks scandal has claimed mass litigation against it should be dismissed on a number of grounds.
Cassidy Brothers is facing more than 1,300 lawsuits from affected homeowners and it is anticipated this number could rise to over 2,000.
The company whose quarry is close to Buncrana is alleged to be the source of the defective materials found in building blocks used to construct homes throughout the county and beyond.
Their legal representatives are arguing that a large proportion of the lawsuits fall outside the statute of limitations.
They have also taken issue with how the cases are being funded, claiming it is being done unlawfully.
According to legal filings around 1.6 million has been provided by the company set up by campaigners to fund the litigation.
Lawyers for Cassidy Brothers raised the two issues before the Commercial Court describing them as “preliminary objections” raised in defences in response to the “pathfinder” or lead cases taken.
Lawyers for the homeowners, Coleman Legal LLP, are expected to argue that objections are unfounded.
They added that the legal actions were taken because of fears that the government’s grant scheme to aid affected homeowners will not fully cover the costs of remediating or rebuilding the thousands of homes affected.
The Coleman Legal action is being taken against Cassidy Brothers and against Donegal County Council and the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) over their alleged roles in allowing the defective materials to be released to the public.
Last week Coleman Legal applied to the Commercial Division of the High Court to have Cassidy Brothers Topmix Ltd., Cranford Concrete Ltd., and Moyle Plant Ltd added as defendants to the six lead cases it has lodged.
Cassidy Brothers, represented by Kerry based law firm Edmond J Dillon Solicitors, claim that a large proportion of the claims falls outside the statute of limitations which dictates a case must be taken within six years of a cause of action coming into existence.
This stance could lead to an argument in individual cases as to when homeowners first knew their homes were affected.
Cassidy Brothers legal team are also questioning the funding of the lawsuits by a company called Mica redress 100 CLG via loans of more than €1.6 million.
The block makers legal team argue that the arrangement is “interference” in the litigation by a party with “no legitimate interest in the proceedings” and amounts to ‘champerty’ – the funding of litigation in exchange for a share of the spoils – a practise that its not generally permitted in Ireland.
However, lawyers for the homeowners are expected to argue Mica Redress 100 CLG is a not-for-profit company and that its directors, Mayo homeowner Jamie Lee Donnelly and Donegal businessmen Adrian Sheridan and Shaun Hegarty, have a legitimate interest in the cases as either they, or members of their families, have been affected.
The judge hearing the case, has to date, not raised any issue in relation to how the cases are funded.
As Ireland does not have a class-action system, six pathfinder cases, containing issue common to all of the lawsuit, have been selected for hearing before the court.
Last week the Commercial Court approved directions for expert geologists to begin inspecting the quarry and taking samples.
The process is expected to begin next month and the outcome of these tests is likely to form part a key part of the litigation.