Mediation attempts have failed to resolve a multi-million pound legal battle between a bank and two brothers once described as Ireland's richest businessmen, it emerged today.
A High Court judge disclosed details of the unsuccessful process as he ruled that separate actions brought by Michael and John Taggart and the Ulster Bank should be tried together.
In a newly published judgment, Mr Justice McCloskey held that joining the lawsuits would ensure fairness as well as saving time and money.
The bank has lodged writs for £5million and 4.3million euros it claims the house-building brothers owes in personal guarantees they gave in 2007.
Proceedings were brought over borrowings by Taggart Holdings Ltd in Northern Ireland and Taggart Homes Ireland Ltd in the Republic.
The brothers, whose development empire collapsed in the property crash, disputes the bank's claims.
They argue that they fully discharged their contractual obligations and have no liability.
In June last year the High Court overturned a summary judgment that the Taggarts must repay the full amount and ordered the case to go to a full trial.
Meanwhile, the brothers have brought a separate lawsuit against the bank, alleging misrepresentation and breach of contract.
The Taggarts sought to have all three actions combined - a position opposed by the bank.
In his ruling Mr Justice McCloskey set out how proceedings were put on hold from January to March this year when the issue of mediation was first raised.
He confirmed that it did not lead to a resolution.
Dealing with the issue of combining the court actions, he said: "It has gained renewed focus and vigour since the unsuccessful mediation process."
The judge held: "I have formed the clear view that joinder of the three actions is likely to save time and costs; will avoid duplication of effort and energies; will secure from the Court a single adjudication of all of the issues belonging to the dispute among the parties; will ensure that no party gains a litigation advantage to the possible detriment of another; will preserve as level a playing field as possible; and will provide an equal measure of fairness to all parties."
"I conclude, accordingly, that all three actions should be tried together and I thus order."