Belfast Telegraph

Developer's wife can fight bank's £31m claim

By Alan Erwin

The wife of a property developer has secured High Court permission to defend herself against a bank's claim for more than £31m in personal guarantees.

Jacqueline Dolan from Co Tyrone was granted the order after she claimed she had just signed whatever forms her husband – pharmacist-turned-developer Peter Dolan – told her to.

The couple were directors in the Dungannon-based development company Jermon Ltd.

Despite rapid growth in the retail and office property sectors the firm was hit hard when the market crashed.

In 2011, it was placed in administration with debts of £100m.

Later that year the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, obtained a default judgment against Mrs Dolan for £31.6m it claimed over a personal guarantee from 2008.

Contesting that order, she argued that she became a director in the firm at her husband's request but held the post in name only.

Mrs Dolan stated she had worked as a teacher in a secondary school and took no note of the firm's finances beyond what Mr Dolan told her.

In November 2009, she was allegedly told by her husband that the bank required them to enter into personal guarantees.

An affidavit submitted by her stated: "I was not at all happy about being required to sign a personal guarantee, but I was persuaded against my better judgment to do so because Peter told me the company was under financial pressure, and the loan facility was vital to its ability to trade.

"At the time I was not aware of the full extent of the company's borrowings, nor was I told, or did I realise, that the guarantee was actually for a sum of £39m."

Recalling that it was signed at a solicitors' office in Belfast, she claimed to have received only a general explanation about the potential adverse consequences.

No separate legal advice was given about the extent of the guarantee or her full potential personal liability, she claimed.

"I realise that the agreement does contain an express acknowledgement above the signatures, but to be candid I simply signed where I was asked to, below my husband, and our signatures were witnessed," she added.

Ruling on the application, Master McCorry stressed that he was only assessing whether Mrs Dolan had raised an arguable defence with some prospect of success.

"The defendant has done enough to satisfy the court that she has an arguable defence based upon undue influence, and set aside the default judgment, and give leave to defend on that issue," he ruled.

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