Judgment Title: Bambrick v Cobley
Composition of Court: Clarke J.
Judgment by: Clarke J.
Status of Judgment: Approved
Neutral Citation No.  IEHC 43
THE HIGH COURT
[2004 No. 7164 P]BETWEEN
DEFENDANTJUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Clarke delivered 25th February, 2005.
These proceedings arise out of a contract entered into between the defendant as vendor and the plaintiff as purchaser in respect of the sale of certain lands at Kilbline in the County of Kilkenny which contract was in writing and dated 11th day of June, 2004. In circumstances which I will outline more fully later in the course of this judgment the contract has now been completed. However a dispute exists between the parties as to the attribution of fault in relation to the fact that the contract did not close in the time contemplated and in those circumstances the plaintiff continues to maintain a claim in respect of damages for loss which he alleges flows from a breach of contract on the part of the defendant which, he alleges, stems from her delay in so closing. In this application he seeks a Mareva type order freezing part of the proceeds of sale.
The plaintiff issued proceedings on 16th May, 2004 in which he claimed specific performance of the above contract (which at that time had not been completed) and in the alternative damages in lieu thereof. For reasons set out in the respective affidavits of Jeremy Chugg (dated 25th June, 2004) and Michael F. Cornwall (dated 6th July, 2004) difficulty was encountered in effecting service of those proceedings. Those difficulties gave rise to an ex parte application on behalf of the plaintiff to this court on 5th July, 2004 as a result of which McKechnie J. refused an application which sought to deem good the purported service of the plenary summons in the circumstances set out in Mr. Chugg’s affidavit or in the alternative seeking substituted service. McKechnie J. observed that another attempt should be made to serve the proceedings directly. That attempt was made in the manner set out in Mr. Cornwall’s affidavit.
Parallel with those events on 28th May, 2004 the defendant’s solicitors served a 28 day notice to complete on the plaintiff.
At all material times the plaintiff was represented by the firm of solicitors Peter G. Crean and Company of which he was a member. The purchaser was represented by Messrs. Thomas A. Walsh and Company in relation to the conveyancing matters but the said firm indicated that they did not have authority to accept service of any proceedings. Lengthy correspondence has been exhibited in the affidavits before me passing between the two firms of solicitors. Suffice it to say that insofar as it relates to the substantive issues which will ultimately have to be resolved in these proceedings it is accepted by both sides that there are fair issues to be tried as to whether the defendant was in breach of contract in relation to the delay in closing and as to whether, as a result of same if it be established, the plaintiff can be said to have suffered loss and damage. However insofar as it is relevant to this application it is important to note that as the conveyancing aspect of the matter neared completion the plaintiff’s solicitors wrote to the defendant’s solicitors on 2nd August and having made general complaints about the conduct of the conveyancing transaction went on to state as follows:-
This undertaking is furnished on the basis that the vendor has not authorised this office, to date, to put this money on joint deposit between the offices of the agents acting for the vendor and the purchaser herein.
With regard to the specific date until which we will hold this sum on trust we are writing to reaffirm our initial undertaking to retain this sum on trust for you until close of business on August 12th next, or in the alternative, until such time as agreement is reached between the parties as to whether this sum is to be placed on joint deposit between the two firms or alternatively, until such time as any order which is made in relation to this matter shall provide otherwise.”
It would appear that no copy of the aforementioned order was sent to the defendant prior to the 11th October 2004 nor was the affidavit grounding the injunction application received by that date. It would appear that on the 11th October Kelly J. indicated that he wished to hear from the solicitor dealing with the matter on behalf of the plaintiff on the following day (Tuesday 12th October) and upon that day the plaintiff himself appeared as solicitor and indicated that owing to the fact that he had been on holiday and as a result of a family bereavement he had been unable to transmit to the defendant and her legal advisers the appropriate paperwork. This explanation was accepted by the Court. Subsequently the interlocutory injunction application was adjourned from time to time and ultimately came before me on the 21st February.
In answer to the plaintiff’s application for an interlocutory injunction) in the same terms as the interim order already made the defendant in substance relies upon two matters:-
1. Lack of candour:
No real risk
In Re: John Horgan Livestock Limited  2 IR 411 at 416 and 418 Hamilton C.J. in the Supreme Court approved of the criteria adopted by Murphy J. in the High Court in that case which in turn were derived from the criteria set out by Lord Denning in Third Chandris Shipping Corporation -v -Unimarine SA  2 All ER 972 at 984. The relevant criteria are as follows:-
ii The plaintiff should give particulars of his claim against the defendant stating the grounds of his claim and the amount thereof and fairly stating the points to be made against it by the defendant.
iii The plaintiff should give some grounds for believing that the defendant had assets within the jurisdiction. The existence of a bank account is normally sufficient.
iv The plaintiff should give some grounds for believing that there is a risk of the assets being removed or dissipated.
v The plaintiff must give an undertaking in damages in case he fails”.
Lack of Candour
In Tate Access Floors Inc. - v- Boswell  3 All ER 303 Sir. Nicholas Brown-Wilkinson V-C identified full and frank disclosure as being “the golden rule” when he said:-
“The amounts concerned are very large, almost £300,000 according to the grounding affidavit of this motion. It is a matter of some concern to me that after the interim order was granted, it was conceded in a replying affidavit that over £95,000 of this was in fact paid into an account of the first name plaintiff. This must have been known to the plaintiffs when the original affidavit was sworn.”
It therefore seems clear that there is a clear obligation on a plaintiff moving for a mareva type injunction to make full disclosure to the court of all matters relevant to the exercise of the courts discretion. Two questions therefore arise:-
(a) Did the plaintiff in this case fail to make appropriate disclosure; and
(b) If he did so fail what consequences should flow.
It seems to me to be clear that the plaintiff failed in his obligation to the court to, in the words of Brown-Wilkinson V.C., “disclose to the court all matters relevant to the exercise of the courts discretion”. In coming to that view I am mindful of the fact that, as Lord O’Hagan L.C. put it in Atkin-v-Moran  I.R. 6 E.Q. 79
“The party applying is not to make himself the judge of whether a particular fact is material or not. If it is such as might in any way affect the mind of the court it is its duty to bring it forward.”
I am also mindful of the fact that the courts have noted (for example in Brink’s-Matt Limited –v- Elcom  3 ALL E.R. 188) that in particular in heavy commercial cases the borderline between material facts and non-material facts can be a somewhat uncertain one and that, without discounting the heavy duty of candour and care which falls upon persons making ex parte applications, the application of the principle of disclosure should not be carried to extreme lengths.
Taking those authorities it would seem that the test by reference to which materiality should be judged is one of whether objectively speaking the facts could reasonably be regarded as material wit materiality to be construed in a reasonable and not excessive manner.
The explanation given on behalf of the plaintiff for the non-disclosure of the correspondence and discussions concerning a possible agreement to lodge monies on joint deposit was that the undertaking given on behalf of the defendant was to last only till close of business on August 12th which, in the events that happened, was the day after the application for an ex parte order was made. While this is true it should also be noted that the undertaking when originally given was to last for a period of nine days and, perhaps more importantly, the sum which appears to have been agreed to be retained, insofar as one may infer an agreement from the correspondence, was a sum of €50,000 rather than the sum of €100,000 in respect of which an application to freeze was made. It is difficult to see how the fact that the parties had been discussing a retention of €50,000 would not have been a material factor in the exercise of the courts discretion as to the amount in respect of which the mareva injunction might have been granted. Whether an interim injunction would have been granted at all could also have been affected, if the court had know this, by the fact that the plaintiff had an adequate opportunity to seek to move the court on notice for an interlocutory order had he moved with expedition following the receipt of the undertaking of the 3rd August. While the relevant period was during the long vacation there is a duty judge sitting on each day during that period. It would at least have been possible to seek a short service of a motion returnable for any day prior to the 12th August so that an interlocutory application rather than an interim application could have been made. It is at least possible that a court might, in those circumstances, have been reluctant to make an ex parte order where the plaintiff had the benefit of a solicitors undertaking and thus was in no immediate danger of the assets being removed upon notice being given of an intention to apply for an interlocutory order.
For all of those reasons I am satisfied that there was a significant and material failure to disclose matters which should have been disclosed on the interim application. This leads to a consideration of the consequences.
The consequences of non-disclosure
In the ordinary way the rights of a defendant in respect of whom an adverse order has been made ex parte in circumstances where full disclosure has not been made it to apply to the court to have the order discharged. However for the reasons set out above the defendant was not aware of the contents of the grounding affidavit until the matter came back before the court by way of an interlocutory application order some two months later. In those circumstances the defendant, in her affidavit of the 30th November 2004, invites the court to discharge the interim order and also invites the court to decline to make an interlocutory order. That the consequences of non-disclosure are not automatic can be seen from Lloyds Bowmaker Limited –v- Britannia Arrow Holdings Limited (1988) 3 All ER 178 where Gildewell L.J. said:-
It is therefore necessary to consider, in general terms, the criteria which the court should apply in the exercise of such discretion. Clearly the court should have regard to all the circumstances of the case. However the following factors appear to me to be the ones most likely to weigh heavily with the court in such circumstances:-
1. The materiality of the facts not disclosed.
2. The extent to which it may be said that the plaintiff is culpable in respect of a failure to disclose. A deliberate misleading of the court is likely to weigh more heavily in favour of the discretion being exercised against the continuance of an injunction than an innocent omission. There are obviously intermediate cases where the court may not be satisfied that there was a deliberate attempt to mislead but that the plaintiff was, nonetheless, significantly culpable in failing to disclose.
3. The overall circumstances of the case which lead to the application in the first place.
Applying those criteria to the facts of this case it does seem to me that the non-disclosed facts were of significant materiality. For the reasons set out above there is a very real possibility that the court would either have made no order or potentially required short service and considered an order only in respect of a significantly lesser sum had it been apprised of the full facts.
While I am not prepared to hold on the evidence that the plaintiff deliberately mislead the court I am constrained to the view that as a solicitor the plaintiff, in particular, ought to have been aware to his duty to disclose all material facts and must be regarded as significantly culpable in failing to bring to the attention of the court matters which on any objective view would have had the potential to influence the courts determination.
Insofar as there as there are other factors surrounding the case which might legitimately be taking into account it seems to me that they cut both ways. It is undoubtedly a legitimate criticism of the defendant that she seems to have placed significant barriers in the way of service being effected. It is equally true to state that the plaintiff was guilty of a significant failure in relation to his bringing the attention of the defendant to the existence of the interim order and the service of the relevant documentation. While it would be inappropriate for me to go behind the acceptance by Kelly J. of his explanation in that regard it should, nonetheless, be noted that a party who obtains an onerous order (and in particular a party obtains such an order ex parte) has a clear obligation to act with appropriate expedition.
In all the circumstances it seems to me that I should exercise my discretion in favour of the application by the defendant to discharge the interim order and against any consideration of the merits of granting a further order.
In case I should be found to be wrong in that view I should express an opinion as to whether, in the ordinary way, it would be appropriate to grant an interlocutory order. In this regard the only real issue is as to whether it has been established that the plaintiff has, in the words of O’Sullivan J. in Bennett Enterprises Inc. & Ors. –v- Lipton & Ors  2 IR 221, established that there was “a real risk that the assets of the defendants would either be dissipated or removed from the jurisdiction of the courts with a view to evading their obligations to the plaintiffs in the event that the plaintiffs should succeed”.
In this case there is no evidence of an intention to dissipate but there is clear evidence of an intention to remove certain assets from the jurisdiction being the balance of the nett proceeds of the sale of the property the subject of these proceedings. However the real question is as to whether it has been established that there is a real risk that such removal is “with a view to evading their obligations to the plaintiff in the event that the plaintiff should succeed”. In that regard the defendant draws attention to the fact that she retains in the jurisdiction a property which appears to be valued at €30,000. She further draws attention to the fact that the sum being discussed for retention prior to the institution of proceedings was only €50,000. Furthermore she draws attention to the fact that the balance of her assets will be available within the United Kingdom which is, of course, a country in respect of which the judgement convention operates so that any order of the court in this jurisdiction will be enforceable under the provisions of the convention in the United Kingdom. As this latter point raises a matter of principle I should express my views upon it.
It is trite to say that a plaintiff is not entitled to security for every claimed liability. The mareva injunction is not intended to provide plaintiffs with security in respect of all claims in relation to which they may be able to pass an arguebility test. The true basis of the jurisdiction is the exercise by the court of its inherent power to prevent parties from placing their assets beyond the likely reach of the court in the event of a successful action.
In answer to this latter point counsel for the plaintiff makes the undoubtedly correct assertion that notwithstanding the existence of the judgments convention it might prove difficult, in practice, to collect on foot a judgment of the court. Of course it should be pointed out that such a situation is not confined to persons outside the jurisdiction or whose assets are predominately outside the jurisdiction. Many plaintiffs experience difficulty in securing practical recovery on foot of court orders. However it seems to me that where a defendant has readily identifiable assets which are held in a convention country that is a factor which the court can properly take into account in assessing whether there is a real risk that the removal of further assets from this jurisdiction to another convention country can be said to be “with a view to evading obligations”. While the removal simplicitor of assets from this jurisdiction to another jurisdiction can, of itself, be such as to give rise to an inference of a reasonable risk of evasion of obligation that inference will weigh less strongly in a case where the second country is a convention country and where therefore, in the ordinary course, the judgment of this court will be as enforceable as within this jurisdiction.
Having regard to the weight which should, therefore, be properly attached to the removal of assets to the United Kingdom and the other factors identified above I am not satisfied that the plaintiff has discharged the onus of establishing that the removal of any further assets to the United Kingdom would be “with a view to evading obligations”. In the circumstances even if I did not consider it appropriate to exercise my discretion against considering the merits of the interlocutory application currently before me I would have refused same.