Early exit from Court proceedings

The Irish Constitution guarantees as part of the suite of its unenumerated rights, a right of access to the courts and a right to litigate.

Whilst these rights are vital to a functioning democracy they can also serve as a double-edged sword for those forced to defend lawsuits taken against them where they have clearly no case to answer. This can include lawsuits where they have been joined to the proceedings through over caution, negligence and/or mistake on the part of the instigator of the proceedings who will invariably cast the net as wide as possible.


The legal concept of “costs following the event” upon successfully defending the proceedings may be cold comfort for them where the instigator of the litigation is not a “financial mark” for costs.


However Order 15 Rule 13 (O15R13) of the Rules of the Superior Courts 1986 may come to the rescue to a defendant in these circumstances. O15R13 empowers the High Court to make an Order dismissing a party as “unnecessary” to these proceedings on various grounds.


The courts are of course bound to exercise due care and diligence in not predetermining the outcome of proceedings but O15R13 can also be a useful strategy to adopt in defending proceedings where the evidence very clearly suggests that there is no reasonable or other grounds for having joined a party as (sic) a defendant to proceedings. This evidence may be in the form of an independent experts’ report, which can be furnished as an exhibit in the affidavit grounding the O15R13 motion.


The Office of the Taxing Master has also held that solicitor should not be penalised on legal costs for settling early and this should be borne in mind in deciding whether to pursue this option on behalf of a client who is unhappy at being dragged into litigation on what is perceived by him vexatious or groundless claims.


Cognisance must be had also of the right of a defendant to seek costs from a plaintiff where a plaintiff discontinues proceedings against them and as a thank you for releasing them early from the proceedings a defendant may be willing to waive their right to seek costs in these circumstances.