Connor v O'Brien

JurisdictionIreland
CourtSupreme Court (Irish Free State)
Judgment Date04 Dec 1925
Docket Number(1924. No. 3860.)

Supreme Court.

(1924. No. 3860.)
Connor v. O'Brien
THOMAS CONNOR, by his Father and next Friend, John Connor
Plaintiff
CORNELIUS O'BRIEN, Defendant (1)

Practice - Transfer of action - Action commenced in the High Court - Transfer to Circuit Court - Jurisdiction - Action of tort - Personal injuries - Unliquidated damages - No specific amount claimed - Test whether action should be transferred - Courts of Justice, Act, 1924(No. 10 of 1924), sects. 25, 48, 51, 56.

Appeal from an order made by Murnaghan J. transferring the action for trial to the Circuit Judge of the County of Dublin. The application to transfer was made under sect. 25 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924 (1). The plaintiff, an infant, suing by his father and next friend, sued the defendant "for damages for personal injury and damages to plaintiff's motor bicycle through the negligent driving of the defendant's motor car by the defendant or his servants" on May 30th, 1924, on the Chapelizod road.

The grounds upon which the motion was made by the defendant and upon which it was resisted by the plaintiff are set out in the judgment of the Chief Justice.

An infant plaintiff, suing by his father and next friend, instituted an action in the High Court, claiming damages from the defendant for personal injuries and for damage to his motor bicycle occasioned through the negligent driving of defendant's motor car. Plaintiff was a carpenter by trade, earning £2 18s. a week, with other occasional employment in his spare time; and the injuries complained of were a compound fracture of his right leg, alleged to result in shortening of the limb, and other possible consequences of a non-permanent character. Plaintiff merely claimed damages in his writ, without specifying any amount. Defendant applied to have the action transferred to the Circuit Court. The jurisdiction of the Circuit Court prescribed by sect. 48 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924, in cases of tort (unless on consent) is "jurisdiction when the claim does not exceed £300." In an affidavit in support of the motion to transfer, defendant stated that plaintiff's father and next friend had no visible means to pay his (defendant's) costs if a verdict was found against the plaintiff, that he had a good defence to the action, and denied liability. In another affidavit in support of the motion a doctor stated that the plaintiff's injuries would not in all probability leave any permanent disfigurement, and that the plaintiff ought to be able to resume work within a month. In an affidavit resisting the motion, plaintiff made a case, on money lost for twenty-three weeks since the accident, of over £120.

Held (reversing Murnaghan J.), that the action ought not to be transferred to the Circuit Court.

Per Kennedy C.J.: The High Court has jurisdiction to transfer to the Circuit Court an action claiming unliquidated damages in tort if, on the facts, it appears, that the action might have been commenced in the Circuit Court. And in determining whether a particular action might, on its facts, have been commenced in the Circuit Court, the plaintiff's statement of his case (unless unequivocably displaced) must be accepted for this purpose, and the question must resolve itself into this: Has the plaintiff stated (upon the affidavits opposing an application to transfer the action) a case upon which a jury could reasonably give him a verdict for a sum exceeding £300? If a jury found for him upon that statement of his case and nothing more, and awarded him any larger sum than £300, would the verdict be set aside on the ground that the damages were excessive? That is the primary test by which the question of transfer to the Circuit Court of actions for unliquidated damages in tort must be determined.

Per FitzGibbon J.: In deciding whether an action might have been commenced in the Circuit Court, or whether it ought not to have been commenced in the High Court, whether a sum exceeding £300 has been formally claimed, or the originating process has been endorsed with a claim for damages generally, without specifying an amount, if the amount of damages recoverable is the only question involved in the decision, the Court must consider whether the plaintiff could reasonably contemplate the recovery of a sum for damages beyond the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court. If a verdict for a sum exceeding £300, given by a reasonable jury, properly directed and acting upon the evidence as presented to the Court, would not be set aside as excessive, the action ought not to be transferred.

Per Kennedy C.J.: The question of the transfer of an action from the High Court to the Circuit Court must be approached in a different way, and be determined by different consideration from the question of remittal of actions to the former County Courts.

Per FitzGibbon J.: Under the...

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