Categories
Personal Injury Claims

Woman Walks Into Lift Door at Work and Sues Her Employer for Personal Injuries

differential costs order

This personal injuries case involves a woman who worked in Abbott Ireland in Clonmel since 1999 and who injured her head as she entered a lift at her workplace in 2014. She was speaking with a colleague as she entered a lift and was looking away from the lift doors towards her colleague.

The woman, Geraldine O’Grady, gave evidence that she expected the lift sensor to prevent the door from closing on her and that she had previously heard a voice over would give a warning that the doors were closing. She was struck on the head by a lift door and suffered a haemotoma (a localized bleeding outside of blood vessels).

Ms O’Grady went on holidays shortly after this incident and suffered headaches and had bruising on her face. When she went back to work she suffered from loss of concentration and headaches.

She also claimed to have suffered from post-concussion syndrome, post-traumatic stress, flashbacks, feared she was going to die, and her confidence was affected.

High Court personal injuries action

Ms O’Grady brought High Court personal injury proceedings claiming the employer was negligent, had failed to provide a safe place of work, had failed to provide a safe system of work, had breached health and safety regulations, and breached the contract of employment.

She claimed the employer was negligent by reason of its failure to have the lift emit a sound when the doors were closing, the lift doors were an excessive width, and so forth.

Justice Creedon’s decision

Justice Creedon found that only 40% of lifts nationwide are fitted with voice warnings. She also held:

“Beyond the home, doors are part of everyday life and automatic doors are no exception. They are commonplace in buildings of every nature. Automatic doors are encountered in every type of public building including hospitals, schools, courts and offices.”

She found the employer was not negligent and that Abbott was not in breach of the reasonably practicable test by reason of its failure to locate a sensor on the outer doors.

The Health Safety and Welfare at Work act 2005 provides that the employer must take whatever steps are ‘reasonably practicable’ for section 8 provides, inter alia,

8.—(1) Every employer shall ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees. (Section 8 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005).(Reading the full section 8 will give a good idea of the employer’s duties under this act).

In summary Justice Creedon held that the injuries sustained by Ms O’Grady were by reason of her own inadvertence and failure to pay attention when entering the lift.

Absolute duty on employers?

Justice Creedon rejected the argument that there was an absolute duty on employers to ensure the safety of employees and referred to section 8 (1) (set out above) referring to the employer’s duty to ‘ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable’ the safety of employees.

She also pointed to the employee’s obligations for her own safety set out in section 13 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005.

This case is Geraldine O’Grady –v- Abbott Ireland [2019] IEHC 79.

Categories
Contract

Contract Law in Ireland-the Essentials

contract law in ireland

We all come into frequent contact with contracts in our daily lives.

Public transport, shopping, visiting your solicitor/doctor/physiotherapist, buying a second hand car, buying a sliced pan in Tesco or Supervalu-the instances of contract law being relevant in your day to day living are infinite.

Let’s take an overview of contract law in Ireland, shall we?

First, what is a contract?

A contract is, at its essence, an agreement between 2 or more parties. It has been defined as an agreement, enforceable at law between two or more parties whereby rights are acquired by one or more persons in return for certain acts or forbearances on the part of the other or others.

By and large, and subject to certain exceptions, the parties to the contract are free to agree their own terms and conditions.

The Components of a Contract

There are a number of essential ingredients to form a valid contract. There must be

  1. Agreement between the parties
  2. Consideration (something of value)
  3. Intention to create legal relations.
  1. Agreement

In order for agreement to be arrived at there must be an offer by one party and acceptance by the other party. The acceptance must be without qualification and the offer must be clear and unequivocal.

i) The Offer

The offer may be oral or in writing and made to one or more persons. An offer can be terminated in 3 ways:

  1. It is accepted
  2. It is rejected
  3. A counter-offer is made.

An offer can also be withdrawn before acceptance, provided this withdrawal is communicated to the other party. Offers do not last indefinitely and will lapse after a reasonable period of time.

What is considered ‘reasonable’ in any situation will depend on the circumstances. They can also lapse after passing a time limit.

An offer must be intended to become binding when accepted, and not just an invitation to treat or the provision of information or mere statements of intention. (An invitation to treat is where one party invites the other party to make an offer-for example, when a solicitor issues a contract for the sale of property-this is an invitation to treat, not an offer. Advertisements would also be considered invitations to treat.)

ii) Acceptance

Acceptance of the offer, if it is to be valid, must also be clear, unambiguous, and unconditional. Acceptance can be verbal, in writing, or clear from the conduct of the party who is accepting. If acceptance does not mirror the offer it may instead become a counter-offer with no agreement or contract in place.

2. Intention to create legal relations

An enforceable agreement only comes into being if the parties intended that they enter into legal relations. Business agreements are normally assumed to be legally binding whereas social agreements or contracts may not be.

If you promise to bring your child to GAA training but fail to do so he cannot sue you on foot of that failure.

Correspondence marked ‘without prejudice’ or ‘subject to contract’ is not intended to be legally binding until the parties have agreed all terms and conditions.

3. Consideration

Consideration-something of value-is a vital part of an enforceable, binding contract. An example of consideration is the price you might pay for goods or services.

Consideration can also be some forbearance or loss or detriment suffered by one of the parties. Both parties need to provide some consideration for the contract to be binding and the consideration must have legal value, even if this is only 1 euro or a peppercorn as the value of the consideration is irrelevant.

Past consideration-that is, consideration given before the parties entered into the agreement at hand-is not sufficient consideration to enforce the contract.

Oral and Written Contracts

It is not essential that a contract is committed to writing.

Clearly, it will be easier to ascertain what was agreed between the parties in the event of a dispute, however. A contract can also be inferred from the course of conduct between the parties.

When you go into a shop to buy milk or bread you are entering into a contract with the retailer, albeit the contract will not be in writing.

However, statute decrees that certain contracts must be in writing or must be evidenced by a memorandum in writing-for example, the sale of land. This memorandum must show the parties, the price, and the property.

Other Contractual Issues

The parties must agree freely to enter into a contract agreement. Undue influence and duress will make a contract voidable.

Courts will also refuse to enforce contracts which are contrary to public policy or which are made to pursue an illegal object.

Capacity-that is, legal capacity, is required to enter into contract.

Certain individuals such as minors, persons under the influence of drink or drugs, individuals suffering from mental illness are not deemed to have the capacity to enter into a legally binding contract and there are rules surrounding contracts for persons in these categories.

Limited companies can only enter into contracts permitted by their company memorandum of association.

Terms of the contract

What is contained in the contract-the meat and potatoes-are various terms and conditions. These terms can be express or implied.

Express terms are those set out in writing in the contract itself and are the nuts and bolts of the agreement struck between the parties.

Various terms can be implied into a contract, for example those implied by statute or common law or the constitution or custom and practice in the industry. Terms can also be implied to give the contract business efficacy-that is, make sense of it.

Conditions and warranties

The terms of the contract may be conditions or warranties. Conditions are fundamental to the contract and the breach of a condition will allow the other party to repudiate the contract.

Warranties, on the other hand, are not as fundamental and breach of a warranty may give rise to a claim for damages or compensation but will not necessarily give the right to repudiate the contract and call it at an end.

Non Binding Contracts-Void, Voidable, and Unenforceable

A void contract is an agreement without legal effect. This may be due to a fundamental mistake by both parties when arriving at the agreement, which mistake must go to the root of the agreement. A minor entering into a contract to buy property would also be void.

The usual remedy for a void contract is rescission which allows a party to set the agreement aside and be restored to his former position and both parties are released from the contract and its obligations.

A voidable contract is one which allows one of the parties to terminate the contract due to relying on misrepresentation of a material fact. However, that party can also affirm the contract. Certain statements, though, for example sales guff, are not intended to be relied upon.

The innocent party can treat the contract as being at an end and seek to recover damages.

An unenforceable contract is one which the Courts will not enforce as there is something missing-for example a written memorandum of the agreement/contract in a sale of land, which is required by statute. In this situation if one of the parties refuses to perform the contract he cannot be forced to do so.

Ending a contract

How is a contract brought to an end? In a number of ways.

  1. By performance

Both parties discharge their obligations under the contract. Performance must be complete, not partial. If the performance is prevented by one party the other party may sue on a quantum meruit basis to prevent unjust enrichment.

2. By agreement

The parties can agree not to pursue the contract and waive their rights under it.

3. Discharge by notice

An employment contract, for example, can be terminated by giving the required notice period. If there is no notice period provided in the contract reasonable notice must be given. What’s reasonable will depend on the circumstances.

4. Discharge by operation of law

5. Discharge by frustration

A contract can become frustrated when it becomes impossible to perform due to circumstances beyond the control of the parties-for example a sales representative or lorry driver losing his driving licence may be unable to fulfill the contract, no matter how willing he may be.

6. Discharge by breach

A contract can be discharged by breach of a condition of the contract. The wronged party can treat the contract as discharged or he can continue with the contract and sue for damages.

If the breach is breach of a warranty the wronged party can sue for damages only.

Remedies for breach of contract

  • Damages-this is the payment of monetary compensation for breaches of the contract. The damages are intended to put him in the position he would have been in if the contract had been performed.

The damages awarded can range from nominal to exemplary. You can read more about damages in civil law here.

  • Quantum meruit-read about quantum meruit here. Quantum meruit is the payment of a reasonable sum for the work done, as opposed to damages for breach of contract or compensatory damages.
  • Specific performance-this is an equitable remedy which directs the party in breach to perform his part of the contract.
  • An injunction-this is another equitable remedy which orders a party to do or refrain from doing an act in pursuance of the contract

Conclusion

The above is a 10,000 foot view of contract law in Ireland. There is statute law dealing with contract, too, such as the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services act, 1980 and the Consumer Protection Act, 2007 which deals with consumer contracts in Ireland while the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 deals with contracts for the sale of land. (Learn more about property law in Ireland here).

Categories
Debt Problems | Bankruptcy District Court Litigation

How to Begin Civil Proceedings in the District Court

district-court-legal-proceedings

The District Court now has a jurisdictional limit of €15,000.

So, if you need to pursue a debt or a claim for damages for breach of contract, negligence, or on any ground for less than €15,000 you will commence proceedings in the District Court.

To do this, you file, for issue and service, a claim notice in the District Court.

What Must You Put in the Claim Notice?

A claim notice must—

(a) state the full name and address of the claimant and an address for service of documents on the claimant; and

(b) if the claimant sues in person, state an address for service of documents on the claimant; and

(c) if the claimant sues or the respondent is sued in a representative capacity, state the capacity in which the claimant sues or the respondent is sued in a representative capacity; and

(d) state the name and address of the respondent; and

(e) if the claimant sues by a solicitor, state the name or firm and business address of the solicitor and also, if the solicitor is the agent of another, the name or firm and business address of the principal.

A claim notice must contain a statement of claim which must—

(a) contain, in a summary form, a statement of all material facts on which the claimant relies, but not evidence by which those facts are to be proved;

(b) contain the necessary particulars of every fact;

(c) if the claim arises by or under any enactment, identify the specific provision of the enactment that is relied on;

(d) state specifically the amount or other relief or remedy sought; (e) state the place where and the date when the claim arose.

A statement of claim in a debt claim must state that the claim is for debt or liquidated damages, must specify the amount claimed by way of debt or liquidated damages and must include particulars of the claimant’s demand for payment.

Where the claim is founded on any written document, the statement of claim must state the date of the document and the parties to the document and:

(a) if the claim is for the payment of money, the amount claimed, or

(b) if the claim is for breach of contract, the alleged breach or breaches of the contract.

A statement of claim must contain a list of all correspondence and other documents on which the claimant will rely at the trial including the date if any and a brief description of each document.

In a debt claim, the claim notice must be indorsed with a statement as follows—

“If you pay the amount of €…… and costs of €……. to the claimant or the claimant’s solicitor within ten days and without filing and serving an appearance and defence you may avoid further costs.”.

If a claim notice is indorsed  as set out in the preceding paragraph, and the respondent pays the amounts claimed within the time limited for filing and serving an appearance and defence, then the civil proceeding is concluded.

Any claim by a consumer for damages under section 74 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 (No. 19 of 2007) must be commenced by the issue and service in accordance with this Order of a claim notice, entitled in the matter of section 74 of the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and otherwise in the Form 40.01, Schedule C with such modifications as are appropriate.

 

Where Do You Commence Proceedings?

A claim notice must be filed with and issued by the Clerk for the Court area:

(a) in which the respondent or one of the respondents ordinarily resides or carries on any profession, business or occupation,

or at the election of the claimant,

(b) in proceedings founded on contract, (except proceedings arising from an agreement under the Consumer Credit Act 1995 or the European Communities (Consumer Credit Agreements) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 281 of 2010)) in which the contract is alleged to have been made, or

(c) in proceedings founded on tort, in which the tort is alleged to have been committed, or

(d) in ejectment proceedings, in which the lands the subject of the proceedings are situated.

Unless the Claim Notice is to be served outside the State a claim notice must be in Form 40.01, Schedule C, or in Form 40.02, Schedule C in a debt claim.

Appearance and defence

A respondent who intends to defend civil proceedings must give, or send by post, to the claimant or solicitor for the claimant an appearance and defence, in the Form 42.01, Schedule C, not later than 28 days after the service on him or her of the claim notice, and must at the same time file a copy of his or her appearance with the Clerk.

A defence must—

(a) contain a statement that the respondent intends to defend the claim notice; and

(b) state the name and address of the respondent and an address for service in the European Union at which documents required to be served on the respondent may be left; and

(c) if the respondent defends by a solicitor, state the name or firm and business address within the European Union of the solicitor and also, if the solicitor is an agent of another, the name or firm and business address of the principal.

Appearance and defence to debt claim

An appearance and defence in a debt claim must be in Form 42.03, Schedule C. A respondent who intends to defend a debt claim must give, or send by post, to the claimant or solicitor for the claimant his or her appearance and defence not later than 28 days after the service on him or her of the claim notice, and must at the same time file a copy of his or her appearance with the Clerk.

A defence in a debt claim must state whether the claim is:

(a) disputed as to both liability and amount;

(b) disputed only as to amount and if so, what amount is admitted to be due;

(c) admitted in full and if so, whether the respondent proposes to pay immediately or requires time for payment.

Appearance and defence in claims other than debt claims

Unless the respondent requires further particulars of statement of claim, a respondent to a claim other than a debt claim who contests or disputes all or part of a claimant’s claim must serve an appearance and defence in Form 42.01, Schedule C on the claimant at the address for service stated in the claim notice and must file a copy of the appearance with the Clerk.

A defence must state which of the facts stated in statement of claim are—

(a) admitted;

(b) denied;

(c) not admitted.

A respondent who, in the defence, does not state whether a fact stated in statement of claim is—

(a) admitted;

(b) denied;

(c) not admitted—

must be taken to admit the fact.

A respondent who states that a fact stated in statement of claim is denied must—

(a) give reasons for denying the fact; and

(b) if the respondent intends to prove a fact different from that stated in the statement of claim, state, with necessary particulars, the fact that the respondent intends to prove.

The respondent must state specifically, with particulars, any fact or matter which—

(a) makes the claim of the claimant not maintainable; or

(b) if not stated specifically, might take the claimant by surprise; or

(c) raises questions of fact not arising out of the statement of claim. (6) If the defence arises by or under any enactment, the defence must identify the specific provision relied on.

A defence must contain a list of all correspondence and other documents (other than any documents already identified in the statement of claim) on which the respondent will rely at the trial including the date if any and a brief description of each document.

The respondent may not rely on the defence of tender unless, within seven days after filing an appearance and defence, the respondent pays to the Clerk the amount alleged to have been tendered.

A respondent who has entered an appearance and defence in a debt claim which complies with the requirements of the rule above is not required to serve and file a defence which complies with the requirements of this rule unless an order has been made in the application for judgment on affidavit refusing judgment and giving permission to defend, in which case, the respondent must serve and file a defence which complies with the requirements of this rule within 21 days after the order is made.

Late filing and service of appearance and defence

A respondent may serve an appearance and defence and file an appearance at any time after the service of a claim notice with the written consent of the claimant, but an appearance and defence may not be served, except by permission of the Court, if the claimant has obtained judgment in default of appearance.

NOTICE REQUIRING COPY DOCUMENTS OR FURTHER PARTICULARS

This does not apply to debt claims.

A respondent may at any time before or at the time of delivery of a defence apply to the claimant in writing:

(a) for copies of all or any of the documents listed in the statement of claim on which the claimant relies or referred to in the statement of claim (Form 42.06, Schedule C);

(b) requiring the claimant to provide further particulars which the respondent asserts are reasonably necessary as to specified matters in the statement of claim (Form 42.07, Schedule C).

A claimant may within 28 days after delivery of a defence apply to the respondent in writing:

(a) for copies of all or any of the documents listed in the defence on which the respondent relies or referred to in the defence (Form 42.06, Schedule C);

(b) requiring the respondent to provide further particulars which the claimant asserts are reasonably necessary (Form 42.07, Schedule C).

COUNTERCLAIM

A respondent may set off or set up any right or claim the respondent alleges he or she has against the claimant as a counterclaim against the claim of the claimant, whether the respondent’s claim is a claim in damages or not.

A set off or counterclaim has the same effect as a cross action, so as to enable the Court to determine both the claim and the counterclaim at the same trial.

A counterclaim must be in Form 42.08, Schedule C.

STAY OR DISMISSAL OF CLAIM AND STRIKING OUT STATEMENT OF CLAIM OR DEFENCE

The Court may at any stage of the civil proceedings order to be struck out or amended any matter in any pleading which is unnecessary or scandalous, or which may tend to prejudice, embarrass, or delay the fair trial of the civil proceedings.

The Court may order any pleading to be struck out, on the ground that it discloses no reasonable cause of action or answer and in any such case or in case of the claim or defence being shown by the pleadings to be frivolous or vexatious, the Court may order the claim to be stayed or dismissed, or judgement to be entered accordingly, as the Court considers just.

What to Do Now

Sometimes, especially in debt collection matters, a solicitor’s letter to a debtor may have the desired effect and eliminate the need to bring proceedings in Court.

If you need a solicitor to handle things for you contact us.