GE Capital Woodchester Ltd v Staunton Fisher Ltd

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMs. Justice O'Regan
Judgment Date02 March 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] IEHC 172
Date02 March 2016
Docket Number[2014 No. 8629 P]

[2016] IEHC 172

THE HIGH COURT

O'Regan J.

[2014 No. 8629 P]

BETWEEN
GE CAPTIAL WOODCHESTER LIMITED

AND

GE CAPITAL WOODCHESTER FINANCE LIMITED TRADING AS GE MONEY
PLAINTIFF
AND
STAUNTON FISHER LIMITED
FIRST NAMED DEFENDANT
AND
DAVID COLEMAN

AND

CATHERINE COLEMAN PRACTICING UNDER THE STYLE

AND

TITLE OF COLEMAN LEGAL PARTNERS
SECOND AND THIRD NAMED DEFENDANTS

Tort – Damages – Abuse of Process – Injunctive Relief – O. 19 r. 27 and/or 28 of the Rules of the Superior Courts – Stay of Proceedings.

Facts: The defendants sought to strike out the plaintiff's claim arising out of the sale of a financial product. The defendants claimed the stay of the proceedings. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff's claim would be frivolous, vexatious, and that the claim failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff's claim would not be maintainable. The defendants further claimed that the plaintiff's proceedings would be premature, lacked merit and amounted to an abuse of process. The plaintiff contended that the special damage had already accrued. The plaintiff claimed that the plaintiff would be entitled to claim an injunction under the law.

Ms. Justice O'Regan held that in dealing with an application under O. 19, r. 28, the Court would refer to the pleadings only and it would not consider the application before it having regard to the context or background of the proceedings. The Court observed that in exercising the inherent jurisdiction, the Court would review the matters in their entirety. The Court found the plaintiff's claim statable in-part. The Court declined to predetermine the matter of costs, thereby effectively excluding a portion of a trial judge's authority and/or discretion. The Court held that the application to award costs at present, of proceedings yet to be heard before another court, would be dismissed.

JUDGMENT of Ms. Justice O'Regan delivered on the 2nd day of March, 2016.
Introduction
1

The within proceedings come before the court on foot of a notice of motion dated November, 2014, of the second and third named defendants (hereinafter 'CLP') and also on foot of a motion of the first named defendants (hereinafter 'SF') dated the 16th July, 2015.

2

Both applications seek to strike out the plaintiff's (hereinafter 'GE') claim which was brought by way of Plenary Summons and Statement of Claim both of which are dated the 10th October, 2014. Both applications are made pursuant to O. 19 r. 27 and/or 28 of the Rules of the Superior Courts and/or are on foot of the inherent jurisdiction of the court to strike out proceedings on the grounds that they are frivolous, vexatious and that they disclose no reasonable cause of action and that they constitute an abuse of process. Both applications are claiming, in the alternative, a stay of proceedings. SF seek a stay pending hearing of a particular case of John Mannion and CLP seek a stay pending determination of all claims referred to in the GE Statement of Claim.

3

At paragraph 8 of the Statement of Claim GE complains that, since May, 2013, it has been served with in excess of two hundred and twenty sets of District Court proceedings and one set of High Court proceedings, all issued by CLP, arising out of the sale of a financial product known as Payment Protection Insurance (hereinafter 'PPI').

4

The Mannion proceedings referred to in the SF Notice of Motion commenced with a Plenary Summons dated the 11th February, 2014. They were described as a set of 'path finder' proceedings on the basis that the determination of those proceedings would inform the balance of the proceedings listed before the District Court which, by Order of the District Court of the 31st October, 2014, have been stayed pending the outcome of the Mannion proceedings. In the events prior to the hearing of the Mannion proceedings, Mr. Mannion died and his proceedings, by way of path finder proceedings were replaced with what can be called the Healy proceedings and the Folan proceedings respectively. It was necessary to incorporate two such proceedings in lieu of the Mannion proceedings to deal with all issues which were in fact raised in the Mannion proceedings.

5

Although the new path finder proceedings have secured a date for hearing in May, 2016, CLP are apprehensive that this date will not be achieved due to outstanding discovery.

6

In the proceedings GE claims damages for abuse of process, maintenance and champerty; for conspiracy; for causing injury by unlawful means; for reputational harm; together with aggravated and/or exemplary damages. In addition, GE claims that agreements between the first named defendant and the individual PPI plaintiffs are void, contrary to public policy, illegal and unenforceable. GE seek an order restraining all of the defendants from participating in such PPI proceedings or indeed any future proceedings against GE together with an order compelling the defendants to discharge the plaintiff's costs of defending the existing PPI proceedings. The above notwithstanding, in written submissions made on behalf of GE it states that it has no difficulty with the PPI plaintiff claims continuing (and in this regard they have not processed an application for a strike out of such proceedings) provided the defendants in the GE proceedings are removed from the PPI claims.

7

The parties' respective positions might, in general terms, be summarised under the following respective subheadings.

Position of CLP
8

CLP's position might be summarised as follows:-

(i) The PPI plaintiff is entitled to be represented by a solicitor of his choosing.

(ii) The plaintiff's claim cannot be maintained and is misconceived.

(iii) The claim if any in champerty lies against SF.

(iv) There is no justification for the GE proceedings which are wholly premature and void of merit.

(v) The GE proceedings comprise a collateral attack on the PPI plaintiffs and amounts to an abuse of process.

(vi) No cause of action is disclosed as against CLP.

(vii) The proceedings are frivolous and/or vexatious and the true motivation thereof is to stifle the PPI proceedings.

(viii) Injunctive relief is not available to the plaintiffs and even if it were the claim at para. 7 is particularly excessive as it relates to all future proceedings against GE.

(ix) CLP relies on and refers to the admissions made by GE in its defence of the Mannion proceedings at paras. 19 and 20 thereof.

(x) CLP refers to the fact that there is no suggestion of a lack of bona fides on the part of the PPI plaintiffs.

(xi) The GE proceedings, if any, can be maintained after the Mannion proceedings and all of the District Court proceedings are concluded.

Position of SF
9

SF adopts all the grounds identified by CLP and further asserts:-

(i) Because the PPI plaintiffs are not a party to the proceedings of GE, the GE proceedings must fail.

(ii) There is manifestly no cause of action for the reliefs claimed at paragraphs 6, 7 and 8 of the pleadings.

(iii) The GE proceedings amount to an abuse of process because they are designed to attack or stifle the claims of the PPI plaintiffs.

(iv) There is an absence of special or actual damage incurred by the plaintiffs rendering the claim premature.

(v) Even at the height of the plaintiff's claim no right to secure injunctive relief as sought is available.

Position of GE
10

GE's position might be summarised as follows:-

(i) It is for the defendants to establish that the GE claim is frivolous and/or vexatious and/or unstatable.

(ii) Case law demonstrates that the within type of application is difficult and it is only in rare cases that such orders might be made.

(iii) The plaintiff has supported in the body of the statement of claim grounds for each and all of the reliefs claimed.

(iv) Special damage has already accrued.

(v) An entitlement to claim an injunction does arise at law.

(vi) GE has a statable case for each of the reliefs claimed.

(vii) GE has instigated one set of proceedings only and therefore cannot be said to have created a multiplicity of proceedings.

(viii) There is no necessity for the PPI plaintiffs to be a party to the GE proceedings to enable GE to succeed.

Legal issues
Maintenance and champerty
11

All parties agree that the case of O'Keeffe v. Scales [1998] 1 IR 290, being a judgment of the Supreme Court is of particular significance. It is the view of the Court that the judgment of Lynch J. was to the effect that the law in this area must not deprive a plaintiff of a right to litigate a statable claim and therefore would not be a valid ground to dismiss such a claim before hearing. Significantly, at page 297 of the judgment Lynch J. states:-

'If at the plenary trial, however, the appellant were successful in her defence and it was established, notwithstanding this judgment on the motion to dismiss or stay in advance of the plenary trial, that these proceedings had been maintained in a champertous manner by Mr. Murnaghan, then it would be open to the appellant to sue Mr .Murnaghan for all the damaged suffered by her, including any cost awarded to her and not recovered or recoverable from the respondents owning to their want of means....

It is clear to the Court from this judgment that the damages which might be suffered are not limited to the costs of the action but might include 'all the damaged suffered by her.'

Lynch J. also stated at p. 295 of his judgment:-

'While the law relating to maintenance and champerty therefore undoubtedly still subsists in this jurisdiction, it must not be extended in such a way as to deprive people of their constitutional right of access to the courts to litigate reasonably stateable claims. In the present case the appellant seeks to stifle the respondents' action before any plenary hearing and consequently she would have to make out a clear case if she were...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT