Two siblings committed a civil fraud in selling their late father’s Dublin home, on foot of a death certificate for a woman with the same name as their stepmother, the Court of Appeal has ruled. The stepmother was alive at the time.
The stepmother, Maureen Moore, had married John G Moore, a widower, in 1971, and they had bought a house at Mount Tallant Avenue, Dublin, in their joint names in 1975.
Ms Moore left there in 1983, due to her husband’s allegedly violent behaviour. Her solicitor wrote to her husband four months later, in connection with her interest in the property, but got no reply.
Ms Moore moved to Belgium, suffered from cancer, and returned, in 2002, to live with her mother at Laburnum Square, North Road, Drogheda.
When she later discovered her husband had died intestate in 1996, and that the house at Mount Tallant Avenue had been sold in 2002 by his children, John and Maria, she took proceedings.
Ms Moore was 71 when her case opened at the High Court, in 2010, but died after evidence concluded. A personal representative of her estate continued the case.
In late 2010, the High Court rejected the claims the stepchildren acted fraudulently by getting a death certificate in Maureen Moore’s name and found that arose due to a mistake.
The certificate related to a different woman of the same name, Maureen Moore, of Kilamcud, Dublin, who died in 1995.
John Moore, aged 43, Woodstock Park, Knocklyon, Dublin 16, and his sister, Maria Byrne, aged 41, of Oakdale Crescent, Ballycullen, Co Dublin, both denied fraud or that they knew or ought to have known the death certificate was not that of Ms Moore.
They said they were unable to locate her, and believed she was dead. They also denied she was forced out of the property years earlier.
The High Court held there was no evidence of fraud by the siblings. It held that because their mistake had resulted in Ms Moore being unable to take out her legal share of her late husband’s estate, she was entitled to damages.
It dismissed an application requiring Nadine Chetty, who bought the Mount Tallant property in October, 2002, but who lives in the Middle East, to deliver up the property to Ms Moore.
An appeal was brought by Ms Moore’s estate and, by a two to one majority, yesterday, the appeal court allowed the appeal concerning the siblings, but dismissed the estate’s appeal against the High Court finding in favour of Ms Chetty.
Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, with whom Mr Justice Gerard Hogan agreed, said he accepted that when the siblings got the death certificate, in 2000, they made “no effort whatsoever” to ascertain whether it related to their stepmother, when any number of avenues would have revealed it did not.
While they said they believed it did relate to their stepmother, the reality was, in the civil sense of fraud and the particular circumstances, they behaved recklessly and carelessly as to whether the death certificate was truly their stepmother’s, when they proposed to rely on it to regularise title of the property, which they sold for some €254,000.
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