Attempted murderer has claims against lawyers struck out

Minter Ellison Rudd Watts and Paul Davison QC successfully defend lawsuit from former property executive.  

Claims by a businessman convicted of attempted murder that his lawyers were fraudulent, negligent and defamatory have been struck out by the High Court.

Martin Lyttelton, former managing director of Calan Healthcare Property Trust, pleaded guilty to attempted murder, grievous bodily harm and aggravated burglary in 2009 and was jailed for five years 11 months.

He was released on parole in May 2011.

After an appeal, a retrial was ordered in 2014 and Mr Lyttelton was again convicted on all charges in March last year. The second time around he was sentenced to seven years' jail.

On March 30 last year Mr Lyttelton filed claims against his trial counsel Paul Davison, QC, solicitor Cathy Quinn and law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, making various allegations they had defamed him, defrauded him, were negligent in his defence and breached their fiduciary duty to him.

The defendants filed an application to strike out all the claims and in a ruling delivered this week Justice Gerald Nation found it would be an abuse of process to allow Mr Lyttelton to continue the proceedings.

The claims were struck out and costs awarded to the defendants.

The judgment from Justice Nation begins with an account of the events leading to Mr Lyttelton’s conviction.

“On 8 April 2008, the plaintiff, Mr Lyttelton, drove to the residence of his former business partner, Mr Ord, armed with a knife, shotgun and cartridges. He fired the shotgun through the door, severely injuring Mr Ord’s partner who was holding the door on the other side trying to prevent his entry. In an ensuing struggle with Mr Ord, Mr Lyttelton fired a second shot and attempted to stab Mr Ord in the stomach area on three or four occasions. Mr Ord suffered a number of cuts to his hands.”

According to earlier judgments, Mr Lyttelton had become obsessed by the dispute with Mr Ord and his mental state was unstable during 2007 and 2008 as a result of depression, exacerbated by alcohol and prescription drugs, including the sleeping pill Zopiclone.

Mr Lyttelton’s defamation claim arose from communication between Mr Davison and the Police in July 2012, when Mr Davison expressed concern about certain people’s safety arising from correspondence sent by Mr Lyttelton about his pending appeal.

The communication followed a meeting between Mr Davison and Mr Lyttelton’s wife, who had power of attorney for her husband, who wanted to ensure Mr Lyttelton did not “over-focus on all of this.”

Justice Nation said the defamation claim had no hope of success for several reasons – it was unspecified, it was time-barred, the defendants had a strong defence of qualified privilege and Mr Lyttelton’s reputation could not have been damaged by the communication.

Meanwhile, his claims of breach of fiduciary duty by Mr Davison and Minter Ellison “are so obviously without merit and of such a scandalous nature as to be an abuse of court proceedings.”

The judge said the claims of negligence, to the extent they were particularised, had already been considered and dismissed by the Appeal Court and were anyway out of time.

“It would be an abuse of the court process to allow Mr Lyttelton to re-litigate those same issues through civil proceedings.”

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