By Ann O'Loughlin
A woman “struggling to get by” after her husband “abandoned” her and their children fears she will lose her family home if a bank gets a €65,000 judgment against her, a High Court judge has said.
Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled the woman, identified only as Ms H, is entitled to a full hearing whether Allied Irish Banks should get judgment in the €65,000 sum, minus €825 she had “somehow managed to pay” since the bank’s demand was made.
Ms H had an arguable defence to Allied Irish Bank’s claim, made arising from a personal guarantee given in April 2002 by herself and her husband, capped at €65,000, for a loan to a limited company, he held.
With “some hesitation” but preferring to err “on the side of caution”, he would send the case for a full hearing and refuse the bank’s claim for summary judgment, the judge ruled.
In its proceedings, the bank sought judgment against both the woman and her husband for the €65,000. The husband previously consented to judgment being entered against him, but Ms H disputes the claim.
Today, the judge told Ms H representing herself, he had identified her only as Ms H because “the world does not need to know your business”.
In his judgment, he said Ms H “has not had it easy in recent years”. Her long-time husband had abandoned her and their children, which came as a blow to her and brought about, or aggravated, some related ill-health.
She has struggled to get by on limited financial support received from the State and what appeared to be “intermittent”, and alleged unsatisfactory, financial support from her husband.
AIB was seeking to enforce the joint and several guarantees of herself and her husband which was a standard form guarantee. For the purposes of this application, he saw no legal difficulty with its terms.
The judge said Ms H phoned the bank in August 2010 and spoke with one if its employees concerning the guarantee. Her notes of that conversation included: “If I pay ½, then I’m out.”
The bank, “perhaps surprisingly” has no record of that conversation but a note prepared by the relevant employee made sometime after the call did not refer to that particular observation. There was some dispute between the sides as to the completeness of the bank note, and it was not entirely clear when it was compiled.
Ms H was adamant her note reflected what was said and contended, on foot of the conversation, the bank can not pursue her for the full sum under the guarantee.
Whether or not the conversation prevented the bank seeking judgment for the full sum was a hurdle she would have to vault at a full hearing, he stressed.
Given the evidence, he could not at this stage find Ms H had not raised an arguable defence, he ruled.