Being Particular About Particulars

Author:Mr Gearóid Carey
Profession:Matheson
 
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Introduction

Although parties set out their formal legal position in pleadings, it is open to the opponent to seek particulars of aspects of the positions being adopted in those pleadings in order to understand better the case being made against them. In Mahon v Celbridge Spinning Co Ltd1 it was stated that the object of pleadings and particulars was to ensure that a party knew in advance, in broad outline, the case it had to meet at trial. In Armstrong v Moffatt2 the High Court recently considered the common practice of seeking broad-ranging and extensive particulars of pleadings, and concluded that the strict legal requirements are somewhat narrower.

Background

In this case, the court considered particulars raised in respect of a personal injury claim brought by the plaintiff. Under the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 the personal injury summons (the originating summons) must set out detailed information regarding the claim being made by the plaintiff. Section 11 allows the defendant to a personal injury action to request specific classes of further information.

Two of the defendants issued a notice for particulars which sought a range of different information arising out of the relevant incident, which particulars were said to derive from the plaintiff's personal injury summons. The plaintiff's solicitors refused to provide the particulars sought, save insofar as required by Section 11. In response, the defendants' solicitors contended that Section 11 did not confine them in seeking other particulars and the particulars sought were reasonable. No agreement could be reached and the court was asked to consider whether the particulars sought should be provided.

Particulars

At the outset, the court noted that the general principles regarding the delivery of particulars are unaltered by the act. Order 19, Rule 7(1) of the Rules of the Superior Courts provides:

"A further and better statement of the nature of the claim or defence, or further and better particulars of any matter stated in any pleading, notice or written proceedings requiring particulars, may in all cases be ordered, upon such terms, as to costs and otherwise, as may be just."

The court recited that the object of particulars was identified in Cooney v Browne in the following terms:

"Where particulars are sought for the purposes of delivering a pleading, they should not be ordered unless they can be said to be necessary or desirable to enable the party seeking them to plead...

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