Settlement in HKR Middle East Architects Engineering LC v English

Abu Dhabi PlazaIn three extensive posts on this blog (here, here, and here), I looked at issues arising out of McDonald J’s judgments in HKR Middle East Architects Engineering LC v English (No 1) [2019] IEHC 306 (10 May 2019); (No 2) [2021] IEHC 142 (3 March 2021); (No 3) [2021] IEHC 376 (31 May 2021). The facts were colourful, and the legal issues were extensive; the subset relevant to this blog included restitution for unjust enrichment by means of a failure of basis (formerly total failure of consideration), the quantification of enrichment, and the potential availability of an automatic resulting trust.

I note from today’s Irish Times that the case has now been settled (with added links):

Settlement reached in Middle Eastern firm’s case against businessman

Matter resolved in out-of-court discussions, judge told

Aodhan O’Faolain

A resolution has been reached in a long-running commercial court action brought by a Middle Eastern engineering and architecture firm against businessman Barry English over alleged unjust enrichment.

The action was launched in 2017 by Hogan Keoghan Ryan Middle East Architects Engineering LLC (HKRME) against Mr English, the founder of Winthrop Engineering, who had denied all the claims against him.

At the commercial court this week, the plaintiff’s senior counsel, Colm Ó hOisín SC, told Mr Justice Denis McDonald that the matter was resolved following out-of-court discussions.

With the consent of the parties, the court could make an order where Mr English agreed to pay HKRME €1.25 million from a trust. …

HKRME was primarily established in the hope of winning a large project, the Abu Dhabi Plaza [pictured above right], in Astan [now Nur-Sultan], capital of Kazakhstan and won that contract in 2010 for fees of US$41 million.

The dispute began with a contested payment of US$8,094,873 in 2013, the claim was commenced in 2017, and McDonald J’s three judgments in the HKR v English cases were delivered in 2019 and 2021. The effect of these judgments was that some, at least, of the original sum was recoverable from Mr English. The case seemed destined for the Court of Appeal (indeed, a procedural issue was heard by that court in June 2021), and – given the sums involved – perhaps even the Supreme Court. As I discussed in my previous posts, the extent of the claim remained murky, and there were some good reasons to think that any appeal could conclude either that the defendant was unjustly enriched in the full amount (here and here) or that he held the full sum on automatic resulting trust for the plaintiffs (here). After extensive procedural skirmishing in the High Court, the matter had been listed for another hearing to begin on 25 June (Tuesday of this week) for 12 days. It has now been resolved by a settlement of €1.25 million from the defendant. Having regard to the original payment of more than US$8 million, a €1.25 million recovery, in the order of 16.6% of the original payment, would seem to be either a score draw or perhaps even a win after extra time for the defendant.