Sheehy v Minister for Finance

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice Gilligan
Judgment Date15 May 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] IECA 153
Date15 May 2018
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Docket NumberNeutral Citation Number: [2018] IECA 153 [2016/200]
BETWEEN
PATRICK SHEEHY
PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT
AND
THE MINISTER FOR FINANCE, IRELAND

AND

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
DEFENDANTS/RESPONDENTS
AS CONSOLIDATED PURSUANT TO ORDER DATED THE 12TH DAY OF JANUARY 2015 WITH RECORD NUMBER 2010/1600 P. PATRICK SHEEHY [PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT]

AND

BALLYCOTTON MARINE SERVICES LIMITED

AND

CARBERY ISLES FERRIES LIMITED
[DEFENDANTS/ RESPONDENTS]

[2018] IECA 153

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] IECA 153

[2016/200]

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Damages – Costs – Loss of use – Appellant seeking to appeal against High Court judgment and order – Whether trial judge fell into error

Facts: The appellant, Mr Sheehy, appealed to the Court of Appeal from part of the judgment of the High Court (Noonan J) delivered on the 19th March 2016 and the order arising therefrom as perfected on the 1st April 2016 insofar as it related to an award of damages of €100,000 and costs to the appellant arising from the loss of a boat, the “Atlantic Mariner”, and the dismissal of a claim as brought by the appellant for damages for loss of use of the vessel.

Held by Gilligan J that it was essential in the particular circumstances of the factual evidence adduced before the trial judge that the judgment engaged in the case made by all the parties to the proceedings and an explanation given in the particular circumstances that arose in this instance why one or other side was being preferred, especially against a background where for instance there was evidence adduced on behalf of the appellants that in 2005 the value of the vessel was €600,000 and following the fitting of the new engine was valued at €650,000 and evidence on behalf of the defendants that in fact the vessel was of no value. Accordingly Gilligan J took the view that the trial judge fell into error. In those circumstances Gilligan J took the view that the appeal should be allowed and he would remit the matter back to the High Court for an assessment of damages only as regards the value of the vessel on the date it foundered.

Gilligan J held that as regards the appellant’s claim for damages for loss of use, which was dismissed by the trial judge, this aspect was intertwined with the issue as to the value of the vessel, its condition and the amount necessary to be spent on it for the purpose of putting to sea to fish and the issue as to the appellant’s health and a possible return by the vessel to fishing; in addition, the trial judge did not consider the conflicting evidence and indicate any preference for the evidence of any particular witness on why that preference was being exercised. In those circumstances, allowing for the factors as set out by Clarke J in Doyle v Banville [2012] IEHC 25, Gilligan J would allow the appeal, setting aside the judgment and order of the High Court dismissing the claim for damages for loss of use of the vessel and refer the matter back to the High Court for an assessment of damages only in respect of the claim for loss of use.

Appeal allowed.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Gilligan delivered on the 15th day of May 2018
Background
1

This is an appeal by the plaintiff/appellant from that part of the judgment of the High Court (Noonan J.) delivered on the 19th March 2016 and the order arising therefrom as perfected on the 1st April 2016 insofar as it relates to an award of damages of €100,000 and costs to the appellant arising from the loss of a boat the ‘Atlantic Mariner’ (hereinafter referred to as ‘the vessel’) and the dismissal of a claim as brought by the appellant for damages for loss of use of the vessel.

2

The background circumstances are that the appellant acquired the vessel in 1990 in the United States of America and in 1996 brought the vessel to Ireland where it was registered in 1997. The vessel had a steel hull and was used in respect of fishing. On the 3rd March, 2008 the vessel was arrested while anchored at Church Strand in the county of Cork on foot of a warrant issued to the Admiralty Marshall and passed on to the customs and excise division in West Cork for execution.

3

On the 11th March 2008 as a result of storm force winds in the Church Strand area the vessel dragged her anchors and was then towed by the first named defendants, its servants or agents, to a mooring in Church Strand Bay where subsequently the vessel foundered and was declared a total loss giving rise for the appellant's claim for damages in these proceedings. The trial judge held the defendants responsible for the loss of the vessel and this aspect is not under appeal.

4

The trial judge had before him considerable conflicting evidence as regards the condition and value of the vessel.

5

In the course of the judgment the trial judge referred to the fact that the appellant had suffered a heart attack, had diabetes and had twice undergone surgery for cancer and concluded that in or about 2006 the plaintiff resolved to retire from the fishing business, probably on grounds of ill health.

6

Further, the trial judge took the view that it was of considerable significance that the vessel actually carried out very little fishing in 2006 and 2007. The figures indicated a total of 35 days fishing in 2006 and 65 in 2007. The trial judge concluded that it seemed to him to be probable that the condition of the vessel deteriorated quite significantly in the three-year period between 2005, when a significant amount was expended on it,...

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