Antonio Casimiro Lopes v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court
JudgeMr. Justice Clarke
Judgment Date27 March 2014
Neutral Citation[2014] IESC 21
Docket Number[S.C. No. 227 of 2008]
Date27 March 2014

[2014] IESC 21

THE SUPREME COURT

Clarke J.

Laffoy J.

Dunne J.

[Appeal No: 227/2008]
Lopes v Min for Justice
Between/
ANTONIO CASIMIRO LOPES
Plaintiff/Appellant

and

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE, EQUALITY AND LAW REFORM
Defendant/Respondent

LOPES v MIN FOR JUSTICE 2008 4 IR 743 2008/36/7731 2008 IEHC 246

RSC O.19 r28

BARRY v BUCKLEY 1981 IR 306 1981/9/1485

SALTHILL PROPERTIES LTD v ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND UNREP CLARKE 30.4.2009 2009/52/13214 2009 IEHC 207

SUN FAT CHAN v OSSEOUS LTD 1992 1 IR 425 1991/10/2412

KENNY v TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN & DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL 2008 2 IR 40 2007/32/6662 2007 IESC 42

EWING v IRELAND & AG UNREP SUPREME 11.10.2013 2013/18/5448 2013 IESC 44

EUROPEAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 2003

BULA LTD & ORS v TARA MINES & ORS 2000 4 IR 412 2000/3/925

ALLEN v O SUILLEABHAIN & MID WESTERN HEALTH BOARD UNREP SUPREME 11.3.96 1997/7/2516

Civil litigation - Personal injury - Professional negligence – Solicitor and client - Fraud - Bias - Corruption - Failure to apply a judgment of the Supreme Court - Fair procedures and constitutional justice - Credible basis for asserting allegations - Assessment hearing - Loss of future earnings - Inherent jurisdiction of the Court - Vicarious liability - Immunity from civil action - Rules of the Superior Courts - Constitution of Ireland

Facts: These proceedings concerned a claim by the appellant for damages under E.U. law, the European Convention of Human Rights and the Constitution of Ireland for discriminatory behaviour by the courts in a number of related cases he had brought. The appellant had been in a road traffic accident sometime prior, which led to the initiation of proceedings for damages for negligence. The matter was heard in Circuit Court and resulted in an award of IR£12,000 (IR£10,000 for general damages and IR£2,000 for special damages) being made. The appellant was unhappy with the award he received and he brought proceedings against his solicitor claiming that the latter should have made an application to move the case to the High Court so an expanded claim for damages could have been pursued. This action was successful, the matter was remitted to the High Court for an assessment hearing of the original injury claim, and the appellant ultimately received a significantly increased award against his former solicitor. The appellant successfully appealed that decision and received an increased award. The present proceedings were initiated, nonetheless, with the appellant arguing that an award for future loss of earnings should have been made.

The appellant claimed that the refusal to make an award for future loss of earnings was made as a result of the bias and discrimination and/or corruption that he faced in the various courts he had brought proceedings in. At the time of the road traffic accident, the appellant had been unemployed for several years, though he was qualified as a navigator. The refusal to make an award for future loss of earnings, which had been made by the High Court and the latter Supreme Court, had ultimately been made on the basis that the appellant was unlikely to resume his career as a navigator. The appellant argued, however, that the High Court had not been entitled to make such a judgment because he would have resumed his career as a navigator if he had have been in good health. It was also said that he would have received an appropriate award for loss of future earnings if the original injury action had been conducted properly. Following the issue of the proceedings, the respondent brought an application to dismiss or strike out the appellant"s claim pursuant to Order 19, Rule 28 of the Rules of the Superior Courts on the basis that it disclosed no cause of action, or alternatively, an order under the inherent jurisdiction of the court to dismiss the claim on the basis that it was an abuse of process and had no reasonable prospect of success or was bound to fail. This was successful and the proceedings were dismissed on the basis that the respondent could not be held vicariously liable for the actions of judges and that there was no credible basis for suggesting that the appellant would be able to establish the alleged bias, discrimination or corruption at full hearing. The appellant appealed the decision.

Held by Clarke J. (with Laffoy J. and Dunne J. concurring) that it was appropriate to consider the respondent"s application under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, rather than the Rules of the Superior Courts, because the former allowed the Court to consider whether there was a credible basis for suggesting that the appellant might be able to establish the alleged facts, whilst the latter restricted the Court to determining whether the proceedings were vexatious on the assumption that the alleged facts would be upheld. This was important because the issue of whether the respondent could be held vicariously liable for the acts of judges was said to be a complex legal issue that should dissuade a High Court judge from exercising the Court"s jurisdiction to dismiss the substantive proceedings on the grounds of being bound to fail.

It was held, however, that the appeal could be dismissed if it was found that the High Court judge was right to conclude that there was no credible basis for suggesting that the appellant could be able, at a full hearing, to establish the alleged bias, discrimination or corruption. On consideration of the appellant"s submissions, it was held that there was simply no basis for suggesting that there was any evidence, or any prospect of there being evidence, to support the factual accusations. In that regard, it was said that was no evidence to suggest that the High Court had disregarded or disapplied the first judgment of the Supreme Court following the remittal of the action for an assessment hearing, no evidence that that High Court judge committed fraud, and no evidence to suggest that any later court failed to apply that judgment.

It was, therefore, found that the proceedings were bound to fail on the facts and the appeal was dismissed.

1

Judgment of Mr. Justice Clarke delivered on the 27th March, 2014.

2

Judgment delivered by Clarke J [Nem diss]

1. Introduction
3

2 1.1. Just over a quarter of a century ago, a road traffic accident occurred. Surprisingly, legal issues arising out of that accident remain before the courts. The plaintiff/appellant ("Mr. Lopes") was injured in the accident. He instructed solicitor and counsel to bring a claim for damages for negligence arising out of the accident and those injuries. Those proceedings were heard in the Circuit Court and resulted in an award of IR£12,000 (IR£10,000 for general damages and IR£2,000 for special damages). Mr. Lopes was not happy with his legal representation in that case and has pursued the remainder of the litigation, which I will briefly outline, on his own behalf as a litigant in person.

4

3 1.2. First, Mr. Lopes brought professional negligence proceedings against the solicitor who acted for him in his personal injury action and against one of his medical advisors, a consultant neurologist. In 1995, Morris J., in the High Court, dismissed both claims. While it will be necessary to say a little more about the basis of the claim brought by Mr. Lopes in professional negligence in due course, in simple terms, his allegation against his solicitor was that, as a result of instructions given by Mr. Lopes to the solicitor concerned, the general evidence available and the prospect of obtaining further evidence, an application should have been made to remit the case to the High Court and an expanded claim for damages, including, in particular, damages for loss of earnings, should have been pursued.

5

4 1.3. In 1996, this Court (O'Flaherty, Barrington and Murphy JJ.) dismissed an appeal brought by Mr. Lopes against that aspect of the order of Morris J. which dismissed his negligence claim against his consultant neurologist. However, this Court (Murphy, Lynch and Barron JJ.) allowed, in 1997, an appeal by Mr. Lopes against the dismissal of his claim against his solicitor and, in terms which remain relevant to what now has to be decided, remitted the question of damages back to the High Court for assessment.

6

5 1.4. That assessment hearing was tried before Geoghegan J. in June and July, 1998. The Court's assessment of the full value of Mr. Lopes' original injury claim (excluding special damages) was IR£52,125.47 (the equivalent of €66,185.69). That sum included the IR£ 10,000 initially awarded in the Circuit Court for general damages but was in addition the sum of IR£2,000 awarded in the Circuit Court for special damages. The High Court award was broken down as to IR£5,000 for loss of earnings, IR£7,125.47 for other special damage together with IR£20,000 for pain and suffering to date and IR£20,000 for pain and suffering in the future together with loss of earning capacity.

7

6 1.5. Mr. Lopes again appealed to this Court, this time against the award of Geoghegan J. The appeal was initially heard before O'Flaherty, Lynch and Barrington JJ. However, for reasons which it will be necessary to address in due course, a second hearing was required at which this Court (Hamilton C.J., Lynch and Barrington JJ.) allowed his appeal and substantially increased his damages to a sum of IR£155,000. This was broken down as to IR£80,000 for past, continuing and future pain and suffering, IR£25,000 for past special damages, principally if not exclusively loss of earnings, and IR£50,000 for future special damages, being loss of earning capacity. Thus, the total sums recovered by Mr. Lopes were IR£157,000 or just short of €200,000.

8

7 1.6. It is necessary to comment that Mr. Lopes has, therefore, by diligence and the acquisition of no small knowledge of the...

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