A £260,000 row between a couple and the builder responsible for carrying out works to their property is due to be heard by the Royal Court.
Simon and Laila Gale were seeking damages of more than £86,700 for unfinished work, damage to their property and impact on their health and finances, after builders T.M Ruane Limited had started proceedings to recover £72,000 in unpaid bills.
The Master of the Royal Court, Advocate David Cadin, heard that work on the Old Pump House in Trinity – which began in July 2021 – was due to be completed in January last year.
However, six months later, when the contract had overrun, the couple stopped paying the builder's monthly valuations, prompting TMR to issue a summons to the Petty Debts Court which was subsequently escalated to the Royal Court.
"As the contract works progressed, the relationship between Mr and Mrs Gale and TMR broke down," the Master noted in his judgment.
Mr and Mrs Gale claimed that TMR had breached the contract between them, and they issued notification that they were terminating it. In addition to the work being delayed, they said that the site was left untidy and that works requiring further attention were left incomplete. They also claimed they had incurred additional costs as a result of having to vacate the property.
Pictured: The Master decided that the case should go to a Royal Court trial.
Although TMR admitted that the contract had not been completed, there had been delays, the site had occasionally been left untidy and that some works had required snagging, they denied that they were in breach of contract or that there was justification for terminating it. And they said that it was entirely the couple's choice to vacate their property.
At a hearing this month, [May] the Master had to weigh the evidence – comprising more than 800 pages provided by Mr and Mrs Gale, and 400 pages from the company – to decide whether there was no prospect of the company defending the couple's application to throw out the claim for unpaid work and damages. In such a case, the Court has the power to grant summary judgment without the detail of the case having to be heard in open court.
However, Advocate Cadin declined to grant the couple's application, saying: "In my view...it is possible that TMR’s claim might succeed but on the basis of the evidence currently before me, it is improbable that it will. However, taking into account the evidence reasonably expected to be available at trial...that assessment becomes far more unclear.
"Similarly in relation to Mr and Mrs Gale’s counterclaim, it is possible that TMR’s defence might succeed but on the basis of the evidence currently before me, it is most improbable that it will do so (particularly given the lack of substantive detail)," he said.
Ordering that the two parties provide detailed schedules in preparation for a further hearing and noting that costs in the case were likely to follow the final outcome, Advocate Cadin said: "None of these matters are appropriate for determination on an application for summary judgment, particularly one where (pre-discovery) the parties have filed some 1,200 pages of evidence to support their respective contentions, and there is still more evidence which I reasonably expect to be available at trial.
"At this stage, I find that the plaintiff’s claim and the defendant’s counterclaim are both realistic."
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