In Allied Irish Banks plc v Marino Motor Works Ltd  IEHC 522, High Court, Ni Raifeartaigh J, 27 June 2017, Allied Irish Banks plc (the Bank) sought summary judgment against the defendant, Marino Motor Works Ltd (MMW), which was the holding company of Barry's of Bantry Limited (BBL), a car dealership. Ní Raifeartaigh J refused summary judgment and sent the matter forward to plenary hearing as neither the Court nor the defendant were in a position to verify the Bank's claim in relation to accumulated interest, which constituted a significant proportion of the total debt being sought.
The Bank was seeking summary judgment in the amount of €728,388 arising from loans to MMW and guarantees provided by MMW.
The Master of the High Court had instructed MMW's accountant, Mr Weakliam, to conduct a review of the accumulated interest being sought by the Bank. Mr Weakliam asked the Bank to provide a detailed breakdown of the interest charges in order to facilitate this review but the Bank refused on the basis that the matter was before the Court. The Bank also pointed to the terms and conditions of the loan, which provided that “[a] certificate issued by any officer of the bank as to any amount payable in respect of facilities will be final and binding on the borrower save in the case of manifest error." Mr Weakliam told the Court that it was unusual that interest on two accounts was accumulating in one account and that this made it difficult and complex to check the interest charges involved. The method of calculation was specifically provided for in the terms for the loans.
Ní Raifeartaigh J held, with some reservation, that the case was not suitable for summary judgment. She noted that she was doing so, not because there was an error in the interest calculation, but because neither the Court nor MMW were in a position, with the information available, to verify the interest calculation. She was doubtful whether the conclusive evidence clause relied on by the Bank meant that a customer could be deprived of the information enabling him or her to engage his or her own professional accountant to double-check the total figure presented to the Court.
Ni Raifeartaigh J also accepted an argument from MMW that there was a prima facie argument for a counter-claim by MMW that the actions of the Bank had contributed to the financial difficulties of the business, which culminated in BBL losing a dealership with a car brand which it had successfully operated for over thirty years, and led to difficulties in meeting loan obligations. She stated that she "did not underestimate the difficulties of any defendant bringing such a claim home successfully" but, she was not in a position to conclude that the defendant's case was "doomed to failure".
This judgment is likely to lead to more requests to financial institutions for details of interest calculation and more challenges to summary judgment applications where that detail has not been provided.