National Museum of Ireland v Minister for Social Protection

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
JudgeMs. Justice Murphy
Judgment Date27 March 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] IEHC 198
Date27 March 2017
Docket Number[2014 No. 191 SP]

[2017] IEHC 198

THE HIGH COURT

Murphy Deirdre J.

[2014 No. 191 SP]

IN THE MATTER OF AN APPEAL PURSUANT TO SECTION 327 OF THE SOCIAL WELFARE CONSOLIDATION ACT 2005

BETWEEN
THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF IRELAND
APPLICANT
AND
THE MINISTER FOR SOCIAL PROTECTION
RESPONDENT
AND
LORNA BARNES
NOTICE PARTY

Employment – S. 327 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 – Award of costs of substantive proceedings – Identification of event

Facts: In the main substantive proceedings, the Court set aside the respondent's decision on the employment status of the notice party. The applicant now sought an order for costs against the respondent. The respondent claimed that there should be no order as to the costs as the applicant was unsuccessful on one issue before the Court while succeeding on the alternative claim. The notice party, too, sought an order for costs against the respondent. The key issue for the determination for the Court was whether the costs should be paid to one State agency against the other State agency.

Ms. Justice Murphy awarded costs to the applicant subject to its reduction by 25%. The Court awarded 25% of costs to the notice party. The Court held that it was the matter for the executive as to how public fund was expended on a dispute resolution between the State bodies. The Court, however, observed that the expenditure of public fund in such litigation was not appropriate. The Court found that since the majority of the hearing time in the substantive proceedings was spent in arguing an issue on which the applicant was unsuccessful, the applicant would be entitled for 25% of its costs. The Court held that the notice was entitled for her costs as she was the direct affected party but only for 25% as the plea taken by her was ultimately rejected and had she been successful, it would have been adverse to her interests. The Court observed that normally, the costs should follow the event and a successful party had legitimate expectation that it would be entitled for its costs.

JUDGMENT of Ms. Justice Murphy delivered on the 27th day of March, 2017.
1

This costs application arises from the Court's judgment in the above matter delivered on 7th March, 2016 in which the respondent's decision on the employment status of the notice party was set aside and the issue of her status was remitted to the SCOPE section of the Department of Social Protection for further consideration. There were three issues before the Court for determination. The first was whether the notice party's employment status was res judicata as a consequence of a prior decision of a rights commissioner that the notice party was not an employee of the applicant. The second issue raised in the alternative by the applicant was a want of fair procedures and in particular the respondent appeals officer's f ailure to have regard to all of the relevant evidence placed before him and his failure to give reasons for his decision. The third issue raised by the applicant was the breach of the principle of audi alteram partem arising from the failure to allow the applicant address a matter of evidence to which the appeals officer had material regard in arriving at his decision.

2

For the reasons set out in its earlier judgment the Court held against the applicant on the question of res judicata on the basis that it did not arise on the facts of the instant case, but held in favour of the applicant both on the issue of fair procedures and the failure to comply with the principle of audi alteram partem in respect of material evidence.

3

The applicant now seeks an order that the costs of these proceedings be awarded against the respondent. The respondent has submitted that there should be no order as to costs in circumstances where the applicant failed on one issue before the Court while succeeding on the alternative claim. The notice party seeks her costs essentially on the grounds that her presence and participation was necessary both to ensure prompt disposal of the matter and to protect her position vis-à-vis the applicant.

Actions in which both parties are emanations of the State
4

Both the applicant and the respondent are emanations of the State and the Court requested the parties to address it on the relevance of that fact for the Court's decision on costs. In recent decades the State has devolved functions previously administered directly by the State to a multiplicity of statutory agencies. A perhaps unintended, by-product of this policy is the phenomenon of statutory agencies suing the State or each other in expensive litigation before our courts. In such cases the costs of both state parties are ultimately paid from the public purse regardless of the outcome of the litigation. Unlike private litigants, these state parties do not have the concern that if unsuccessful in litigation, they will be saddled with costs which will have to be met from their own resources. In private litigation the prospect of a hefty costs order is a potent incentive to reasonableness, both in the conduct of litigation and in the settlement of actions. Such incentive is entirely absent where the competing parties know that whatever the outcome of the action their costs will be met from the public purse. This strikes the Court as being an undesirable state of affairs both because of the burden placed on the public purse and the burden placed on the resources of the courts. Intra-state disputes should be resolved by the State and one arm of the State should not be suing another arm of the State in our courts. The fact that this occurs demonstrates, in the Court's view, a lack of proper governance.

The law
5

The applicant has made cogent submissions on this issue. Having reviewed the jurisprudence on costs including Grimes v. Punchestown Developments Company Limited [2002] 4 I.R. 515, Dunne v. Minister for the Environment [2008] 2 I.R. 775 and Godsil v. Ireland [2015] IESC 103 the applicant set out what it claims to be the core principles in relation to costs as follows:-

(a) The successful party in proceedings will normally be entitled to the costs of bringing those proceedings. This is the general rule and all other rules are subordinate to, or are informed by, the general rule.

(b) A successful party in proceedings has a legitimate entitlement to expect that it will recover the costs of those proceedings. This expectation is an equitable one and should only be departed from where justice demands it.

(c) It is possible to depart from the general rule where “ special circumstances” exist.

(d) A decision to depart from the general rule may only be exercised on a reasoned basis stating the reasons for doing so.

(e) The parameters of special circumstances are not fixed, however in order to exist there must be a difficulty, a complexity or an impossibility in following the general rule.

(f) The burden of proof in demonstrating the existence of such special circumstances, rests on the party seeking to depart from the general rule.

This seems to the Court to be an accurate summary of the current jurisprudence on this issue.
6

Having outlined the general rule that costs follow the event, the applicant poses the question whether the fact that both the applicant and the respondent are emanations of the State might amount to a “ special circumstance” so that the general rule might be departed from. The applicant submits that it...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 cases
  • Treasury Holdings ((in Liquidation)) and the Companies Acts 1963 to 2012
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 23 November 2022
    ...the bill. 27 . This is the same point which was made by Murphy J. in National Museum of Ireland v. Minister for Social Protection [2017] IEHC 198 at para. 4, in the context of a State agency incurring litigation costs. She noted that a private citizen who is paying legal fees out of his own......
  • Spencer Dock Development Company ((in Liquidation)) and the Companies Acts 1963 to 2012
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 28 November 2022
    ...never comes out an individual's pocket as it is ‘met from the public purse’ (See Museum of Ireland v. Minister for Social Protection [2017] IEHC 198, per Murphy J. where this point is made in context of a State agency incurring unnecessary legal 32 . In order to take account of this missing......
1 books & journal articles
  • The Role and Responsibility of the State in Litigation
    • Ireland
    • Irish Judicial Studies Journal Nbr. 1-20, January 2020
    • 1 January 2020
    ...an undesirable state of affairs both because of the burden placed on the public purse and the burden placed on the resources of the 9[2017] IEHC 198. [2020] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 4(1) 80 IRISH JUDICIAL STUDIES JOURNAL 80 courts. Intra-state disputes should be resolved by the St......

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