Haughton v Quinns of Baltinglass Ltd

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice Garrett Simons
Judgment Date19 December 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] IEHC 872
Docket Number2017 No. 7450 P.
CourtHigh Court
Date19 December 2019

[2019] IEHC 872

THE HIGH COURT

Garrett Simons

2017 No. 7450 P.

BETWEEN
JOHN HAUGHTON
PLAINTIFF
AND
QUINNS OF BALTINGLASS LIMITED
DEFENDANT
ZURICH INSURANCE PLC
THIRD-PARTY

Third-party proceedings – Delay – Frivolous and vexatious claims – Third-party seeking to set aside third-party proceedings – Whether the claims advanced in the third-party proceedings were frivolous and vexatious and bound to fail

Facts: The third-party, Zurich Insurance plc, applied to the High Court to set aside third-party proceedings pursuant to Order 16, rule 8(3) of the Rules of the Superior Courts. The main proceedings between the plaintiff, Mr Haughton (the Injured Party), and the defendant, Quinns of Baltinglass Ltd (the Insured), took the form of a personal injuries action. The question which arose in the third-party proceedings was whether Zurich was required to indemnify the Insured in respect of this personal injuries claim pursuant to a policy of commercial motor fleet insurance. Zurich objected that the third-party proceedings were irregular. First, it was said that the Insured failed to bring the application to join Zurich as a third-party within the twenty-eight day time-limit prescribed under Order 16, rule 1(3). This delay was alleged to have caused prejudice to Zurich. Secondly, it was said that the issues arising in the third-party proceedings were entirely different from those which arose in the personal injuries action; the requisite connection between the main proceedings and the third-party proceedings such as would justify the making of an order under Order 16 was absent. Thirdly, it was submitted that the claims advanced in the third-party proceedings were frivolous and vexatious and bound to fail.

Held by Simons J that whereas the legal issues arising in the main proceedings and the third-party proceedings may not be the same, there was significant overlap in terms of the factual matters. Simons J noted that Zurich had purported to decline cover on the grounds inter alia that the vehicle was not being used as a means of transport at the time of the accident; in particular, Zurich drew attention to the fact that the vehicle was on private property, and was being used to load cattle feed. Simons J held that the manner in which the vehicle was being used was, potentially, relevant to determining the distinct legal issues of (i) whether there had been negligence, and (ii) whether the use of the vehicle was of a type covered by the policy of insurance; the third-party procedure was thus properly invoked in this case. Simons J held that the third-party proceedings should not be set aside for failure to comply with the twenty-eight day period prescribed under Order 16 of the Rules of the Superior Courts: first, it was reasonable for the Insured to engage with Zurich before making a formal application to join it as a third-party; secondly, the five month delay in issuing the motion did not have any appreciable effect on the progress of the proceedings; thirdly, whereas it was not a decisive factor, some weight could be attached to the fact that Zurich had not suffered any specific prejudice as a result of the delay. Simons J held that the legal issues were complex and could not be resolved properly in the context of an application to strike out proceedings on a summary basis.

Simons J held that Zurich’s application as per its notice of motion dated 9 January 2019 would be dismissed.

Application refused.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Garrett Simons delivered on 19 December 2019
INTRODUCTION
1

This matter comes before the court by way of an application to set aside third-party proceedings. The application is made pursuant to Order 16, rule 8(3) of the Rules of the Superior Courts.

2

The main proceedings, i.e. the proceedings between the Plaintiff and the Defendant, take the form of a personal injuries action arising out of an accident said to have occurred on the Defendant's premises. For ease of exposition, the Plaintiff will be referred to hereinafter as “the Injured Party”, and the Defendant will be referred to as “the Insured”.

3

The question which arises in the third-party proceedings is whether Zurich Insurance plc ( “Zurich”) is required to indemnify the Insured in respect of this personal injuries claim pursuant to a policy of commercial motor fleet insurance. The resolution of this question will necessitate an examination of the precise terms of the policy of insurance, and, in particular, will require consideration of the implications of the existence of a parallel policy of public liability insurance provided by a different insurer. It will also be necessary to consider certain issues of EU law arising under Directive 2009/103/EC relating to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles. The third-party proceedings have the potential, therefore, to be a complex piece of litigation.

4

None of these issues fall to be determined in this judgment however. This is because Zurich objects that the third-party proceedings are irregular. Three specific objections are made as follows. First, it is said that the Insured failed to bring the application to join Zurich as a third-party within the twenty-eight day time-limit prescribed under Order 16, rule 1(3). This delay is alleged to have caused prejudice to Zurich. In particular, complaint is made that the personal injuries claim has since been settled as between the Injured Party and the Insured. This is said to have denied Zurich the opportunity of contesting the claim or seeking to compromise same on the basis of a lesser offer of settlement.

5

Secondly, it is said that the issues arising in the third-party proceedings are entirely different from those which arise in the personal injuries action. The requisite connection between the main proceedings and the third-party proceedings such as would justify the making of an order under Order 16 is absent.

6

Thirdly, it is submitted that the claims advanced in the third-party proceedings are frivolous and vexatious and bound to fail. Application is made to strike out and/or dismiss the third-party proceedings on this basis.

7

As appears, Zurich has adopted the paradoxical position that the claims advanced in the third-party proceedings are—at one and the same time—too complex to be determined in a personal injuries action, yet are so obviously destined to fail that the bringing of the third-party proceedings represents an abuse of process.

8

The sole purpose of this judgment is to rule on the various procedural objections outlined above. It is only in the event that the third-party proceedings survive Zurich's challenge that the substantive merits of the third-party proceedings will then be heard and determined.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY
9

The main proceedings arise out of an accident said to have occurred at the Insured's premises on 21 July 2015. Given the dispute which has since arisen as to whether Zurich is obliged to provide an indemnity in respect of the accident, it is necessary to rehearse the details of the accident. The summary which follows is based solely on the pleadings, and does not entail the making of any findings of fact by this court.

10

The Insured operates what is described as an “agri-store business” in County Kildare. The Injured Party, who is a farmer, had attended at the premises on 21 July 2015 for the purposes of purchasing feed for his cattle. It seems that cattle feed is dispensed at the premises by using a motor vehicle with a hydraulically controlled bucket attached to its front. (The vehicle resembles a JCB such as might be found on a building site, save that it does not have a digger at the back). It seems that cattle feed is scooped up in this bucket from a stockpile and then loaded into large canvas bags for customers. It is pleaded that, due to the negligence of the employee operating the vehicle, the bucket had been caused to close and crushed the Injured Party's left arm.

11

The vehicle is registered as a motor vehicle and has been fitted with a registration plate. This is potentially relevant to the question of whether Zurich is required to indemnify the Insured pursuant to the motor fleet insurance policy.

12

On 14 August 2017, the Injured Party issued the within proceedings by way of personal injury summons. The relevant authorisation having been previously provided by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

13

It appears that the initial approach of the Insured had been to seek indemnity pursuant to a policy of public liability insurance which it held with a different insurance company, namely Amlin UK.

14

Amlin UK nominated a firm of solicitors, Kent Carty Solicitors, to act on behalf of the Insured in the proceedings. An exchange of pleadings took place in the ordinary way, and the formal pleadings were closed on 23 November 2017 when a full defence was delivered.

15

By letter dated 5 February 2018, Kent Carty Solicitors wrote to Zurich and called upon them to confirm within 14 days that Zurich would provide a full indemnity in respect of the personal injuries claim pursuant to the Insured's motor fleet insurance policy. The letter indicated that, in the absence of such confirmation, an application to join Zurich as third-party to the proceedings would be made. No substantive response was received to this letter. (See affidavit of Gavan Carty dated 22 March 2019).

16

Thereafter, on 9 April 2018, the Insured issued a motion seeking an order pursuant to Order 16, rule 1(1) of the Rules of the Superior Courts joining Zurich as a third-party to the within proceedings. This application came on for hearing before the High Court (Barrett J.) on 11 June 2018. Barrett J. made an order on that date granting liberty to issue and serve a third-party notice. Barrett J. subsequently provided his written reasons in a reserved judgment dated 1 October 2018, Haughton v. Quinns of Baltinglass...

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1 cases
  • Morrow v Fields of Life Trust Ltd
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 30 July 2020
    ...defendants, in his written submissions, has drawn attention to the recent decision of Simons J. in Haughton v. Quinns of Baltinglass Ltd [2019] IEHC 872 where the court, in taking the whole circumstances of the case into account, considered whether the third-party had been prejudiced by the......

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