Well-known solicitor Gerald Kean has appeared before a sitting of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal to face six charges of alleged professional misconduct.
A former client, Christopher O’Neill, claims Mr Kean failed to act on a number of instructions in relation to a dispute he had with a Co Cork-based marine engineering firm.
Other grounds of complaint relate to allegations that the solicitor knowingly misled Mr O’Neill about the work he had carried out on his behalf and failed to provide a duty of care.
Mr O’Neill, 58, a self- employed businessman of Poacher’s Lodge, Crowe Hill, Drumsna, Co Leitrim, claimed Mr Kean failed to submit a notice to defend a civil summons to appear before Carrick-on-Shannon District Court, Co Leitrim, and claimed he failed to lodge an appeal against a summary judgement.
Mr O’Neill explained to the tribunal that he engaged a marine engineer, Michael Connolly of Ballycotton Marine Services, to carry out a survey on his boat in relation to separate legal proceedings over poor repairs by another party.
However, he refused to pay an invoice submitted by the firm after Mr Connolly indicated he was not prepared to give evidence on his behalf in court.
The tribunal heard from Mr Kean’s legal representative that Mr Connolly rejected such a claim. Ballycotton Marine Services then took a legal action against Mr O’Neill for the non-payment of its invoice.
Mr O’Neill, who comes originally from Cornwall in England, said Mr Kean had advised him to send a cheque for €500 to initiate court proceedings against Ballycotton Marine Services but then failed to lodge a notice to defend the case.
The solicitor had told him the day before the court hearing, in Sept 2005, that he (Mr O’Neill) did not need to attend as he had submitted a notice to defend the case and an application to have the case moved to a court in Dublin.
Mr O’Neill said he subsequently received a demand from Mr Connolly’s solicitor in Mar 2006 seeking demand for payment on foot of the court judgement.
Mr Kean told him not to worry as he would look after lodging an appeal against the judgement.
Mr O’Neill claimed the case was ultimately settled when Mr Kean paid over a cheque for €1,048 without his knowledge.
He told the tribunal he only became aware of Mr Kean’s failure to carry out various instructions when he obtained his case files from the solicitor in 2011.
Mr O’Neill said he would not have made a complaint against the solicitor if he admitted he had “screwed up”. However, the solicitor had responded by calling him a liar and fraudster.
Under cross-examination by Richard Kean SC, Mr Kean’s brother, Mr O’Neill admitted he continued to use the solicitor despite saying he was “full of crap”.
Asked why he hadn’t sued Mr Kean for breach of contract, Mr O’Neill said the sum involved represented “a relatively trivial amount”. He said the tribunal was also “a more appropriate forum because it exposes what goes on in the legal profession”.
The tribunal previously rejected around 10 other allegations of professional misconduct Mr O’Neill made against Mr Kean.
Mr Kean’s lawyers yesterday called on the tribunal to dismiss the allegations on the basis that Mr O’Neill had provided no evidence of giving specific instructions to their client.
However, the tribunal ruled that there was a prima facie case for Mr Kean to answer on six grounds.
The case was adjourned until a date to be fixed in 2014 when Mr Kean will give evidence.
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