McEvoy v Meath County Council

Judgment Date24 January 2003
Date24 January 2003
Docket Number[2001 No. 359 J.R.]
CourtHigh Court


[2001 No. 359 J.R.]


Practice and procedure - Costs - Whether court should award costs to unsuccessful plaintiff - Public interest challenges - Rules of the Superior Courts, Order 99

Facts: The applicants challenged, by way of judicial review, the making and adopting of a development plan. They did not act to protect some private interest but in furtherance of a valid public interest in the environment. They were unsuccessful. They sought an order for costs against the respondent.

Held by Quirke J. in ordering that the respondent should pay 100% of the costs of and associated with the daily transcript of the proceedings and 50% of the applicants’ costs of and incidental to the proceedings that the trial of the proceedings was unnecessarily prolonged and the overwhelming majority of the issues of fact were determined in favour of the applicant.


JUDGMENT of Quirke J. delivered the 24th day of January, 2003.


Having delivered judgment in this case on the 2nd September, 2002, I heard applications from the parties relative to costs on the 8th November, 2002, which, in summary, comprised an application by the applicants for an order for costs against the respondent and a corresponding application by the respondent for an order for costs against the applicants.


In O'Shiel (a minor) & Ors. v. Minister for Education and Science, Ireland and Attorney General (Unreported, High Court, Laffoy J., 10th May, 1999) the exercise of this Court’s discretion pursuant to Order 99 of the Rules of the Superior Courts to award costs was considered and in particular the “special category of case in which the Court will award costs to an unsuccessful plaintiff”


Six different cases in which costs were awarded to unsuccessful litigants were reviewed by the court which noted inter aliathat at the time of judgment there appeared “.. to be no statement or record from which the principle which should govern an application for costs by an unsuccessful Plaintiff in a constitutional action can be deduced.”


In that case the unsuccessful plaintiffs were awarded the full costs of the action on grounds inter aliathat the proceedings had significance which extended beyond the sectional interests of the plaintiffs, that it was in the broader public interests that the extent of various obligations and rights created by Article 42 of the Constitution should be clarified and that


the primary beneficiaries of the proceedings would have been children who relied upon their parents to invoke the courts jurisdiction to vindicate their constitutional rights.


In O’Connor v. Nenagh Urban District Council and Anor .(Unreported, Supreme Court, 16th May, 2002) the discretion of this Court in the matter of costs was again considered with particular reference to Order 99 Rules 1 (1) and (4) where an applicant was refused relief by way of judicial review of a decision of a planning authority. The Court refused to interfere with the exercise by the trial judge of his discretion to make no order as to costs in respect of the respondent and to award to a notice party its costs against the applicant. The Court found that whilst “there is an element of public interest in this case.., it does not involve issues of considerable public importance.”


In Regina v. Lord Chancellor ,exP; CPAG [1999] 1 W.L.R. 347 Dyson J., dealing with the jurisdiction to make a pre-emptive costs order acknowledged that there was a distinction to be made between ordinary private law litigation, on the one hand, and what he called “public interest challenges”on the other hand. He explained his understanding of the concept of a public interest challenge in the following terms at p. 353


“The essential characteristics of a public law challenge are that it raises public law issues which are of general importance, where the applicant has no private interest in the outcome of the case. It is obvious that many, indeed most judicial review challenges, do not fall into the category of public interest challenges so defined This is because, even if they do raise issues of general importance, they are cases in which the applicant is seeking to protect some private interest of his or her own.”


In Lancefort Ltd v. An Bord Pleanala (No. 2) [1999] 2 I.R. 270 Denham J.,


considering the locus standiof a plaintiff observed at p. 296 that:


"…I am satisfied that the applicant is...

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