A notary has been ordered to pay €90,000 in compensation after a court established that he was negligent in his dealings with a couple which found itself contractually bound to sell a property to two different buyers.
The case was instituted by Ruby and Brian Donlevy against notary Anthony Grech Trapani.
The case centred on a villa in Madliena, which Ruby Donlevy had decided to sell.
A promise of sale agreement, subject to bank loans, was signed on March 8, 2013 with Roderick and Fiona Micallef before notary Sam Abela. The contract was for five weeks, which was extended by two weeks. The buyers then requested an extension of a further two weeks to allow them time for the bank to confirm whether or not they had been granted a loan. The seller refused.
Notary Grech Trapani had assisted the Donlevys in the process leading to the promise of sale agreement. When they refused to extend the agreement, they informed him.
Ruby Donlevy claimed that Notary Grech Trapani told her that the promise of sale agreement was now void and that she could put the property back on the market, without informing notary Abela. He even suggested a new potential buyer – Ro’Anna Borg. A promise of sale agreement was eventually also signed with Ms Borg. The contract was signed before notary Grech Trapani.
Both promise of sale agreements had been duly registered.
The Donlevys were then informed by notary Abela and their estate agent that the first promise of sale agreement was still valid at law and the Micallefs still wanted to buy the property.
Eventually the parties to both promise of sale agreements filed for warrants of prohibitory injunction to stop the transfer of the property. Neither was prepared to surrender his contract.
The Donlevys had talks with both, in search of a solution and eventually compensation of €80,000 was paid to the Micallefs. €10,000 were paid to the Ro’Anna Borg to cover her legal costs. She eventually bought the property. Notary Grech Trapani published the sale contract.
Dr Grech Trapani denied ever having been granted any mandate by the Donlevys. He insisted that it was Ruby Donlevy who had informed him that the promise of sale agreement with the Micallefs had fallen through and she therefore wished to put the property back on the market. Therefore, he said, it was she who had misinformed him. He held the Ruby and Brian Donlevy responsible for professional defamation.
In his testimony notary Grech Trapani said the first promise of sale was no longer valid owing to procedural issues. Furthermore, the Donlevys had had several courses of action open to them instead of having resorted to the compensation of €80,000. He could not understand how the Donlevys had asked him to eventually publish the contract of sale to Ro’anna Borg when they intended to sue him for alleged negligence.
Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff said the documents and e-mails produced in court showed that notary Grech Trapani was involved in all stages of the sale of the property, even before the first promise of sale agreement was signed.
He was also present when that first promise of sale agreement was signed before Notary Abela and therefore should have been well aware of its terms. He also played a crucial role in the conclusion of talks with the eventual buyer Ro’anna Borg.
Ms Borg’s testimony showed that it was notary Grech Trapani who had told her that the first promise of sale agreement was void. The evidence showed that such advice had been given without the necessary verification and without the notary having even read the promise of sale agreement of March 8, 2013.
The court said that even if the Donlevys had claimed that the first promise of sale agreement was no longer valid, notary Grech Trapani had a professional duty to ascertain himself of the facts and not just take their word and signing the second promise of sale. Under the terms of the first agreement, it was only the prospective buyers, not the sellers, who could void the agreement.
There had be no document showing the cancellation of the first agreement by the potential buyers. Nor had their notary even been informed.
Mr Justice Mintoff said notary Grech Trapani had therefore been negligent in his duties. He ordered him to pay €90,000 as compensation to the Donlevys covering their costs of €80,000 and €10,000 also paid as legal costs to Ro’anna Borg.
Back to: Malta Blog