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Bird v Lantern Recovery & Others

Thomas Dumont KC and Matthew Fletcher & Ben Marsden of Gosschalks LLP have obtained a hugely successful outcome for their clients in a recent undue influence and forgery case, in the Business & Property Courts (the old Chancery Division) of the High Court. Following a two-week, hard-fought trial, their clients David Bird and Sharon Montgomery, partners in the firm of Crane & Staples and executors of Sheila Coleman Deceased, recovered more than £3million from the 1st-4th Defendants, and obtained an indemnity costs order, with a £half-million payment on account.

After giving judgment, the judge set aside a series of dividend waivers for presumed undue influence, and declared a further waiver to be a forgery.  He also unraveled, again on the grounds of presumed undue influence by her son, Ray Coleman, the 4th Defendant, two supposed gifts by Sheila, to buy million-pound houses for two of her grandchildren. The executors ran two further heads of claim, on the basis of documents which had come to light during the dispute. Although those were unsuccessful, it did not stop the judge ordering the Defendants to pay the executors costs on the indemnity basis.

The judge took the view that the Defendants’ case depended almost entirely on the credibility of Ray Coleman. Under Tom Dumont KC’s cross-examination, Ray was found to have been “an unsatisfactory, unreliable and dishonest witness … whose evidence and case was akin to a roller-coaster of lies contradictions and inconsistencies.” The judge refused permission to appeal, but the Defendants are renewing that application before the Court of Appeal, in relation to the dividend waivers.

Read the full judgment here.