A HIGH court judge has ruled that the 76-year old owner of an Isle of Wight hotel must pay more than £280,000 for refurbishment works she claimed she never asked for.
Deputy Judge Roger ter Haar also ordered Elizabeth Lowe, owner of the Esplanade Hotel, Sandown, to pay around £33,000 in interest, making the total bill £313,999.
She must pay the money to construction company Brynwell (Southern) Ltd – the director and main shareholder of which, Daren O’Neill, had been a long-time friend – by June 5.
With legal fees, the overall cost of losing the case could top £500,000.
She had already paid the company £152,080 in response to invoices totalling £488,246, the court heard.
In his decision, the judge, who said he did not find Mrs Lowe's evidence reliable, said there was an agreement for Brynwell to carry out initial works at a cost of £50,860 plus VAT.
Mrs Lowe had paid £49,980 in cash by June 26, 2012, but said that thereafter, Brynwell had "started on a major campaign of work which she did not want done."
The judge said: "She was asked in cross examination why she didn’t tell the workmen to stop. Her answer was that it was not easy to tell them to stop. She said that she told Mr O’Neil 'so many times’. She said that 'I felt physically unable to ask them to stop’. She denied that she ordered extra work."
He ruled: "I do not accept this evidence from Mrs Lowe. There is a direct and fundamental clash between her evidence and that of the claimant’s witnesses."
He said much of the work had been carried out by sub-contractors who had been left out of pocket pending the resolution of proceedings, but he also said it would have been helpful if Brynwell's invoices had been more detailed and itemised.