A Q&A guide to dispute resolution law in Ireland.
The country-specific Q&A gives a structured overview of the key practical issues concerning dispute resolution in this jurisdiction, including court procedures; fees and funding; interim remedies (including attachment orders); disclosure; expert evidence; appeals; class actions; enforcement; cross-border issues; the use of ADR; and any reform proposals.
To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions visit the Litigation and enforcement Country Q&A tool.
This Q&A is part of the PLC multi-jurisdictional guide to dispute resolution. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit www.practicallaw.com/dispute-mjg.
Commercial disputes are predominantly dealt with through litigation in the Irish High Court as it has jurisdiction to hear all claims with a monetary value in excess of EUR38,000 (as at 1 March 2012, US$1 was about EUR0.7). The Commercial Court (a list of the High Court) deals with commercial disputes in excess of EUR1 million (see Question 3).
While the courts remain the ultimate forum for the resolution of commercial disputes, there is a growing trend towards the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as an alternative or an addition to the court system. Arbitration is recognised as an alternative procedure and has been modernised by the Arbitration Act 2010. The High Court can also adjourn proceedings to allow parties to engage in ADR.
In May 2011, the European Communities (Mediation) Regulations (SI 209 of 2011) (Mediation Regulations) were enacted which brought into effect in national law Directive 2008/52/EC on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters (Mediation Directive). These Regulations set out provisions concerning the use of mediation in cross-border disputes and apply to all Irish courts (see Question 32).
The following limitation periods apply:
Contract law: six years from the date of breach.
Claims for liquidated sums: six years from the date the sum became due.
Tort claims: six years from the date of accrual of the cause of action.
Personal injuries under negligence, nuisance or breach of duty: two years from the date of the cause of action accruing or the date the claimant first had knowledge, if later.
Land recovery: 12 years from accrual of the right of action.
Maritime and airline cases: two years from the date of accrual of the cause of action.
Defamation: one year from the date of accrual of the cause of action.
Judicial review: the claim must be brought promptly and in any event within three months of the date of the cause of action (the court can extend this period if there is a good reason).
The period during which mediation takes place in a cross-border dispute to which the Mediation Directive applies is excluded from the calculation of the limitation periods.
In December 2011, the Law Reform Commission published a report on limitation of actions in respect of all actions excluding property claims. The report recommends a uniform, basic, limitation period for "common law actions" (contract, negligence, nuisance and breach of duty). The suggested period is two years, to run from the date of knowledge of the claimant, that is, the date that the claimant knew or ought to have known of the cause of action. "Knowledge" includes both actual and constructive knowledge. The report recommends the introduction of a uniform ultimate limitation period of 15 years to run from the date of the act or omission giving rise to the cause of action. It also recommends that this period should apply to personal injury actions, and that there should be statutory discretion to extend or not apply the ultimate limitation period.
The High Court has unlimited monetary jurisdiction and hears civil non-jury cases (with the exception of defamation or civil assault claims) exceeding EUR38,000 (see Question 1). Cases are usually heard by one judge.
The Commercial division of the High Court handles claims over EUR1 million where the dispute falls into one or more of the prescribed categories of commercial proceedings. However, there is no automatic right for any case to be admitted to the Commercial List and the court retains the ultimate discretion to admit cases, including the admission of complex commercial disputes which do not meet the threshold.
Other divisions of the High Court include:
Non-Jury List: claims for breach of contract, professional negligence actions and debt collection.
Chancery List: injunctions, company law matters, specific performance and rescission actions.
Common Law List.
Judicial Review List.
The answers to the following questions mainly relate to procedures that apply in the High Court.
In Ireland there are two types of lawyers: solicitors and barristers. Although barristers tend to be instructed by solicitors to make submissions before the court, all solicitors, who are qualified members of the Law Society of Ireland, have a right of audience before the Irish courts.
The Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011, published in October 2011, envisages the ultimate unification of the two branches of the legal profession, but it is unclear whether this Bill will be implemented and, if so, when (see Question 35).
A foreign lawyer must satisfy the admission requirements of the Law Society of Ireland or the Honourable Society of Kings Inns, which are the professional bodies for solicitors and barristers respectively.
There is no fee scale structure for commercial litigation in the High Court. Solicitors' fees are usually charged on a fixed hourly basis. Barristers' fees are usually in the form of fixed fee (brief fee arrangements). "No-win, no-fee" structures are common in personal injury cases. However, fee arrangements which involve a success fee based on a proportion of the damages awarded are not allowed.
Litigation is usually funded by the individual parties, but the unsuccessful party is often ordered to pay the successful party's costs (see Question 22).
There is no explicit statutory basis for third party funding (TPF) in Ireland. There is an argument that TPF is contrary to the common law principles of champerty and maintenance which prohibit financial assistance to a party to litigation by a person who has neither an interest in the litigation, nor any legally recognised motive justifying interference.
Insurance to cover litigation costs is not readily available in the Irish market. While insurance is available in the London market, the premium required for this form of insurance is often prohibitively expensive.
In line with the constitutional right that justice must be administered in public, court proceedings are held in public, except for certain cases set out in legislation. Such exceptional cases are held in camera (in private) and only those persons directly involved in the case can be present for the hearing. Due to their sensitive nature, family law matters are usually held in camera.
While under no obligation to do so, solicitors usually, as a protective measure in relation to future costs applications, send a warning letter to the defendant before initiating legal action.
If there is more than one potential defendant, an "O'Byrne letter" is usually sent, which calls on the potential defendants to admit liability and states that if no liability is admitted, each will be sued and the letter will be relied on in resisting an application for costs by any party found not liable.
In personal injury actions, if the claimant does not notify the alleged wrongdoer(s) in writing of the wrong alleged to have been committed within two months of the cause of action accruing, the court may take this failure into account when adjudicating on costs (see Question 22).
Proceedings are commenced in the High Court by issuing and serving an originating summons. The most commonly issued summons is a plenary summons, unless the action is for the recovery of a debt, where a summary summons is issued.
The defendant must enter an appearance within eight days of the service of the summons, either confirming his intention to defend the claim or contesting the court's jurisdiction, and also identifying the defendant's solicitor, if one is retained.
In plenary proceedings, a statement of claim must be delivered to the defendant within 21 days of the appearance being filed. The defendant then has 28 days to deliver a defence and/or counterclaim. A reply to the defence and/or counterclaim can be delivered by the claimant within 14 days thereafter.
Following receipt of the statement of claim, the defendant can raise queries on it, known as a notice for particulars, to assist with the preparation of its defence. A reply to the notice for particulars is usually required within 21 days, failing which an application can be made to court for an order directing delivery of a reply. Equally, a notice for particulars can be raised by the claimant on the defence. Once these steps are completed, pleadings are said to have closed.
The exchange of documents process, known as discovery, begins when pleadings have closed (see Question 16).
Once discovery has been completed, the claim is scheduled for trial. High Court actions are generally heard within 18 months, although cases admitted to the Commercial List can be heard within six months.
The Commercial Court rules alone provide for case management. Once a case is admitted to the Commercial List, court directions are issued setting out a strict timetable for the exchange of pleadings, discovery and other pre-trial steps. The solicitor for the party making the application to the Commercial List must give an undertaking that the Court's directions will be complied with in full. Cases are regularly listed before the Commercial Court to monitor the progress of the case. Increasingly, case management occurs in the other lists of the High Court through applications for directions to the relevant High Court judge or the President of the High Court.
The Irish Superior Court Rules stipulate specific time limits regarding the exchange of pleadings and all other steps in the litigation process. Where these time limits are not complied with, it is open to the affected party to seek relief from the court through an application to dismiss a claim (see Question 10).
A case may be dismissed before trial if there is a default in pleadings and/or a failure to meet procedural requirements.
Either party can make an application to dismiss a claim or a pleading provided it can show that either:
There is no reasonable cause of action.
The action is frivolous or vexatious.
An application for judgment in default of appearance or defence can be made if the defendant fails to deliver the appearance within eight days or the defence within 28 days.
In addition, an application to strike out a defence or dismiss a claim can be taken against a party who has failed to meet discovery obligations.
Applications to have a pleading or claim struck out are made by notice of motion, supported by a grounding affidavit. The other party can file a replying affidavit, following which the matter is determined at a hearing based on the affidavits.
The defendant can make an application for security for costs to the High Court. The granting of this order is at the court's discretion, and the court grants such an order only in the following circumstances:
If the claimant is resident outside the jurisdiction and not within the EU or the European Free Trade Area (EFTA).
If the defendant has a satisfactory defence to the claim and verifies this on affidavit.
If there are no other circumstances which obviate the need for security for costs.
The defendant applies for security for costs by way of request to the claimant. If the claimant fails to agree to provide security within 48 hours of receiving the request, the defendant can make an application for security for costs to the court by notice of motion and grounding affidavit.
Security for costs can also be sought against an Irish corporate claimant. It is generally easier to obtain an order against a corporate claimant than an individual claimant as a company has the benefit of limited liability. The defendant must establish a prima facie defence and demonstrate that there is reason to believe that the claimant would be unable to pay a successful defendant's costs. The onus then shifts to the claimant to establish that the order should not be granted. If an order is granted, the proceedings are stayed until the claimant provides the security. If the claimant does not provide the required security, its claim is dismissed.
Temporary injunctions are either interim (granted on an ex parte basis only) or interlocutory (granted on notice). They may be granted on a discretionary basis by the court, provided that the following conditions are met:
There is a serious issue to be tried.
Damages are an inadequate remedy.
The balance of convenience lies in favour of granting an injunction.
An undertaking as to damages and full and frank disclosure must be made in the application for a temporary injunction.
Interim injunctions are applied for without notice to the defendant, on an ex parte basis. An ex parte interim injunction is usually granted on the same day but is generally only granted in cases of urgency for a short period of time, typically until the date on which the interlocutory injunction application is to be heard.
Interlocutory injunctions must be applied for with notice to the other side and are only granted after a court hearing has taken place with all parties present. Interlocutory injunctions, while temporary, last until the court makes some further order or until trial.
Mandatory injunctions are available and the court takes the same factors into account as for prohibitory injunctions (see above, Availability and grounds). However, as a mandatory injunction imposes a positive obligation to carry out some act, the court is generally more hesitant to grant a mandatory injunction.
The court, at its discretion, may make an interim attachment order to preserve assets pending judgment. An application for an order can be brought where it can be established that the defendant has assets within the jurisdiction and there is a risk of those assets being dissipated with the intention of evading judgment prior to the hearing of the action.
The application for an order of attachment must be made to the court on notice to the party against whom it is sought. However, in limited circumstances where the matter is urgent, the order can be granted on an ex parte basis. The order can be obtained on the same day where the matter is sufficiently urgent.
It is possible to obtain an order even if the main proceedings are not being heard in the same jurisdiction.
The claimant does not obtain any preferential interest in the subject of the order.
The claimant is responsible for any loss resulting from the freezing of the defendant's assets if the order was not honestly obtained with full and frank disclosure.
The claimant must provide an undertaking as to damages, thereby protecting the defendant in the event that it is held that the interlocutory injunction should not have been granted.
Although rare, an order can be granted which allows the claimant to access documentation belonging to the defendant and to remove identified items. This is to prevent the defendant from destroying evidence pending the trial of the action and is known as an Anton Piller order.
The most common remedy awarded is damages, although the court has discretion to award equitable remedies including specific performance, rescission, declarations, rectification and injunctions.
Damages can be compensatory or punitive, for example:
General damages: compensation for loss with no quantifiable value, such as pain and suffering.
Special damages: compensation for precise financial loss, such as damage to property.
Punitive (exemplary) damages: awarded to punish the behaviour of a defendant (rarely awarded).
Nominal damages: awarded where the claimant has been wronged but has not suffered financial loss.
After pleadings close, discovery begins. The rules governing this process are set out in Rule 31 of the Irish Rules of the Superior Courts. Each party issues a written request for voluntary discovery from the other party of all documents now or previously in its power or possession relevant to the dispute. This request must comply with the following requirements:
Parties must stipulate the exact categories of documents that they require.
Requests must be confined to documents which are material to the issues in dispute and necessary for the fair disposal of the proceedings or for saving costs.
A reasonable amount of time must be provided for discovery to be made.
If voluntary discovery is agreed, the agreement between the parties has the same effect as a court order. In the absence of agreement, the court can order discovery pursuant to applications by the parties.
Once discovery has been agreed or ordered, the documents are disclosed in a two-stage process:
Parties disclose on affidavit the existence of documents relevant to the proceedings.
The documents are then made available for inspection, unless exempt from production for reasons of legal privilege (see Question 17, Privileged documents).
If the parties fail to make discovery as agreed or ordered, applications can be brought to have the claim dismissed or defence struck out and the parties could be liable for an attachment order (see Question 13).
There are various types of privilege. The most commonly claimed is legal professional privilege, of which there are two forms:
Legal advice privilege. This protects confidential communications between lawyer and client that are created for the sole or dominant purpose of giving or seeking legal advice.
Litigation privilege. This is broader as it protects confidential communications between lawyer and client made for the dominant purpose of use in connection with existing or contemplated litigation. Litigation privilege covers not only communications between lawyer and client, but also between lawyer or client and a third party, for example, expert witnesses.
In Ireland, the term lawyer includes solicitors, barristers and in-house counsel. The Irish courts have made a distinction between communications involving legal advice, which are privileged, and communications involving mere legal assistance, which are not. Legal advice from in-house counsel is privileged, except for communications in relation to the European Commission competition law investigations (following the Akzo-Nobel judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ)).
Where privilege is claimed, the party must individually list each document in the affidavit of discovery and describe the privilege claims in relation to each document so that the basis for the claim of privilege can be considered and evaluated. Any claim of privilege is open to challenge by the other side.
The court may exercise its discretion in considering claims that discoverable documents should not be produced due to confidentiality. The court looks closely at the precise scope and nature of any confidentiality claim advanced and determines whether the disputed material should be disclosed by balancing the parties' interests against the public interest.
The balance tends to be in favour of retaining confidentiality in cases involving the rights of non-parties, whereas production of the document is generally ordered in cases where only the litigants' interests are concerned. Protective measures can be put in place, for example, limiting the parties who have access to the documents to the parties' lawyers or expert witnesses.
"Without prejudice" communications, which are communications between parties to a dispute (or their representatives) and which are part of a genuine attempt to settle the dispute, are considered privileged and cannot be disclosed or put in evidence without both parties' consent. However, "without prejudice" communications are disclosed in certain circumstances, for example where:
There is a dispute as to the existence of a settlement.
There is a claim that the settlement should be set aside on grounds of fraud, misrepresentation, undue influence or mistake.
The communication acts as a cloak for illegality.
Evidence at trial is normally given orally by witnesses on oath or affirmation. However, the court, in cases involving affidavit evidence, may at any time order that particular facts be proved by affidavit, or that the affidavit of any witness should be read out in court.
The Commercial Court Rules provide that a claimant, one month before the trial date, and the defendant, seven days prior to the trial date, must serve on the parties to the proceedings written, signed and dated statements of witnesses of fact and expert witnesses, setting out the essential elements of their evidence.
Witnesses are subject to cross-examination following examination in chief. Cross-examination can be carried out on affidavit evidence, although a notice to cross-examine must be served in advance.
Experts are appointed by the parties, rather than the court.
The role of the expert is to assist the court by providing an honest and unbiased opinion on technical aspects of a dispute. The Commercial Court encourages parties' experts to consult with each other to reach agreement on the issues on which they intend to give evidence.
An expert may reply to the other party's expert's report when giving oral evidence and can be cross-examined on their own evidence and/or their reply.
Each party is responsible for their own expert's fees. However, experts' fees can be included in a claim for costs from the unsuccessful party (see Question 22).
An appeal of a High Court decision is made to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has final appellate jurisdiction unless an issue of interpretation of EU law is involved, in which case it must be referred to the ECJ.
A decision may be appealed on a point of law or fact. Supreme Court hearings are conducted by re-examining the High Court documentary evidence and the admission of new evidence is rarely allowed. Witnesses are not called to the Supreme Court, subject to exceptional circumstances.
Any party wishing to appeal a High Court decision has 21 days from the date the judgment is perfected to appeal the decision. The date of perfection is the date of preparation of the order or judgment by the High Court Registrar. It currently takes about three years before an appeal is heard. An expedited process is available in urgent cases.
There is no specific Irish legislative provision dealing with class actions or multi-party litigation. The closest procedures are representative actions and test cases.
There are limitations with representative actions. For example, damages cannot be awarded and there are specific rules requiring the members of the class to have the same interest. The preferred option is the test case, which arises where there are numerous separate claims arising from the same circumstances. The first case is the test case as it becomes the benchmark by which the remaining cases are resolved. Although technically the subsequent claimants and defendants, not being parties to the original litigation, are not bound by the result, the test case has an effect by virtue of the doctrine of precedent. Therefore, the benefits of the original ruling may be extended to cases involving factual situations identical to those of the test case. Subsequent litigation is often settled on the basis of the test case outcome.
The Law Reform Commission published a report in 2005 on multi-party litigation, which recommends a formal opt-in procedural structure be put in place to deal with multi-party litigation. To date, the recommendation has not been implemented.
Order 99 of the Rules of the Superior Courts contains a comprehensive code dealing with the award, assessment and taxation of costs. Generally, the costs of every proceeding in the Superior Courts are awarded at the court's discretion and therefore, no party can recover costs without a costs order. However, costs generally follow the event (that is, the unsuccessful party is ordered to pay the successful party's costs). Costs are usually awarded on a party-party rather than solicitor-client basis, which means that costs reasonably incurred by the successful party in prosecuting or defending an action are recovered, but other legal fees incurred are not. The court can make costs orders to take account of a party's conduct, including:
Open settlement offers made.
The parts of the case in which the otherwise successful party has not succeeded.
Where a payment into court has been made by the defendant (known as a lodgement), which was not taken up by the claimant and the claimant fails to obtain an award in excess of the sum lodged, the claimant must bear its own costs from the date of lodgement and the defendant's costs from that date, unless otherwise ordered.
The court can penalise a party who receives an award which does not meet the High Court's jurisdictional threshold of EUR38,000 by awarding the typical costs of a lower court action, if it believes the application should have been brought in that court. In addition, the court can take into account a refusal to participate in ADR (arbitration excepted) by a party when making an order as to costs.
Cost sanctions can also be awarded in Commercial Court proceedings where either party fails to comply with any directions issued by the court (see Question 9, Role of the courts in progressing the case).
Interest on costs is payable from the date on which costs are agreed or have been taxed. The applicable rate is 8% per annum.
Once a judgment is obtained it should be served on the defendant. The judgment can also be registered in the High Court Register of Judgements which is available for public inspection. The threat of publicity can serve to induce payment.
Where a judgment debtor fails to discharge its debts, a number of enforcement methods can be employed. Any judgment, irrespective of court jurisdiction, can be enforced in the District Court. The following enforcement methods are available:
If the debtor has property, a judgment mortgage can be registered against the property.
An execution order allows the seizure of goods by publicly appointed sheriffs.
An instalment order requires the debtor to make payments at regular intervals determined by the court.
If the debtor fails to pay sums according to the terms of an instalment order, a creditor can apply for a committal order, which involves arrest and imprisonment.
Where it appears that the debtor has no assets but is owed a debt by a third party, a creditor may seek an attachment order in respect of that debt.
A receiver may be appointed to a sell a debtor's property and pay the sale proceeds to the creditor.
Bankruptcy proceedings may be commenced against an individual debtor.
A petition for the winding up of a debtor company may be presented to the High Court.
The courts generally recognise an express choice of governing law in civil and commercial contracts between parties in EU member states pursuant to Regulation (EC) 593/2008 on the law applicable to contractual obligations. In the case of non-EU member states, the courts will recognise a choice of law under common law rules, subject to the following qualifications:
The court may apply overriding mandatory provisions of Irish law (for example, statutory employment law rights under the Irish unfair dismissals legislation).
The application of foreign legal provisions may be refused if the application is manifestly incompatible with Irish public policy.
The courts respect a choice of jurisdiction in a commercial contract in accordance with the provisions of Regulation (EC) 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Brussels I). Irish courts can also accept jurisdiction to determine a dispute where the choice of jurisdiction is not exclusive or where both parties agree to the Irish courts accepting jurisdiction.
Where the defendant is not domiciled in a contracting state to Brussels I, common law rules apply and Irish courts may claim jurisdiction where Ireland is the most appropriate forum for the claim.
If the foreign party is an EU member, Regulation (EC) 1393/2007 on the service in member states of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters (Service Regulation) applies.
Proceedings can be sent directly by post, provided that the terms of the Service Regulation are observed. Otherwise, proceedings can be sent to the Master of the High Court, with a request for service by the designated transmitting agency in the country of origin. If any particular method of service is requested, the Master of the High Court should be satisfied that it is compatible with Irish law and procedure. If he is not so satisfied he can direct personal service. If the documents being served are not in English, a translation must be served.
In relation to non-EU member states, Ireland is also party to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters 1965 (Service Convention).
Evidence can be taken voluntarily from a witness in one jurisdiction for use in proceedings in another jurisdiction. For a witness to be compelled to give evidence, the applicable rules depend on whether the other jurisdiction is within or outside the EU.
To compel evidence from a witness in an EU member state, Regulation (EC) 1206/2001 on co-operation between the courts of the member states in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters allows the court of one member state to request the court of another member state to take evidence for use in proceedings in the court of the former member state.
If a party to litigation in another member state seeks evidence from a witness resident in Ireland, that request is made to the Dublin Metropolitan District Court (the designated requested court) or the Circuit and District Court Operations Directorate (the designated Central Body). The Circuit and District Court Operations Directorate accepts forms from member states in English, and only by post, fax or email.
If the order is granted, a subpoena to examine a witness (subpoena ad testificandum) is issued.
Ireland is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters 1970 and the taking of evidence in Ireland for use by a tribunal or court in a non-EU member state is regulated by the Foreign Tribunals Evidence Act 1856 (1856 Act). Under the 1856 Act, an Irish court may, on the application of a foreign tribunal, direct that a witness in Ireland, over which it has jurisdiction, attend to give evidence for use in the foreign proceedings. Proceedings must be ongoing before a request for evidence can be made (1856 Act).
A letter of request must be issued from the foreign court to the Irish court requesting assistance by directing the Irish witness to attend before it to give evidence. Alternatively, a request may be forwarded by an Embassy of the state where proceedings are pending to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs which arranges for a High Court application to be made by the Chief State Solicitor. The application is typically made on an ex parte basis and is then served on the witness. The examination is overseen by an examiner appointed by the Irish court and is subject to Irish evidential rules.
The enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters between EU member states (and Denmark) is regulated by Brussels I. Enforcement of judgments between EU member states and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) is regulated by the Lugano Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters 2007 (New Lugano Convention). The Jurisdiction of Courts and Enforcement of Judgments (Amendment) Bill 2011 is due to be enacted shortly in Ireland, which will give full effect to the updated 2007 Lugano Convention.
The procedure involves an application to the Master of the High Court, made ex parte on affidavit together with:
The original judgment or a certified copy.
A standard form certificate provided by court officials in the member state in which judgment was given, containing details of the judgment.
The Master of the High Court declares the judgment enforceable if the requirements of Brussels I are met. After that, the judgment has the same force and effect as a judgment of the High Court.
To enforce a judgment from a non-EU/EFTA country (and not Denmark), it is necessary to rely on Irish common law rules of enforcement, including the following:
The judgment must have been obtained from a court of competent jurisdiction which had the requisite jurisdiction in respect of the particular claim.
The judgment must be for a definite sum and be final and conclusive.
The judgment must not have been obtained by fraud or granted in breach of the principles of natural justice.
Enforcement of the judgment must not be contrary to Irish public policy.
The application is brought by summary summons for a liquidated amount, that is, the value of the award under the foreign judgment.
Arbitration, mediation and conciliation are popular mechanisms for resolving disputes outside the court procedure.
Arbitration mirrors traditional litigation and is extensively used for commercial contract disputes, particularly construction, insurance and holiday contracts. The mechanism for appointing an arbitrator is usually set out in the contract's arbitration clause. An arbitrator's award is final and binding.
The Arbitration Act 2010 standardised and modernised the law applicable to arbitration by applying the UNCITRAL Model Law to both domestic and international arbitrations.
Mediation is a facilitative, non-adversarial, non-binding process where an independent third party mediator acts as a "go-between" between the parties, in order to achieve settlement. Mediation can be agreed by the parties by including a term in the contract in which they agree to refer any dispute in the first instance to mediation. Alternatively, when a dispute arises, the parties can agree to submit to mediation. Mediation is commonly used in employment disputes.
Conciliation is similar to mediation but distinguishable by the fact that the independent third party acts as an evaluator rather than a facilitator. A conciliator is more likely to suggest terms of settlement or offer an opinion on the merits of the case. In some proceedings, the parties may invite the conciliator to issue a written recommendation in this regard. Conciliation is often used in Irish domestic construction disputes.
This is a private and confidential method, most commonly used in cases where the only issue that divides the two disputing parties is purely technical, for example, the valuation of a property, share valuation or rent review figures. Expert determination arises frequently in construction disputes but can be used in other commercial litigation. The process involves an independent third party who investigates the disputed issue and issues a final and binding determination.
Where parties consent to arbitration in the course of proceedings, the proceedings can be adjourned to facilitate arbitration.
The Commercial Court has discretion to adjourn a case of its volition or on the application of the parties for up to 28 days to enable the parties to consider using mediation, conciliation and arbitration. The court can extend the adjournment if the parties decide to refer the proceedings to an ADR regime.
Similar rules apply to all High Court proceedings which can now be adjourned to allow the parties to engage in mediation, conciliation and arbitration. Under these rules, costs sanctions may be imposed for not using ADR, unless there is a good reason.
The parties are free to decide the manner in which evidence is given, as there is no particular procedure.
Arbitrations are normally conducted in the form of judicial proceedings with the exchange of pleadings and evidence in the traditional adversarial fashion, subject to the normal rules on privilege (see Question 17). The High Court may assist with taking evidence where, for example, the attendance of Irish-based witnesses can be compelled through a subpoena or evidence from witnesses overseas.
Arbitrations are typically conducted in private, with confidentiality applying to the arbitral proceedings. However, this comes into conflict with the constitutional right that justice be administered in public in circumstances where applications need to be made to the court in aid of arbitration.
Mediations and conciliations generally involve the production of position statements, which set out the parties' versions of the dispute to the mediator or conciliator. Separate and private communications can take place with individual parties in an attempt to facilitate settlement, unlike in the case of arbitration where communications are held in the presence of all parties.
Evidence given and documents furnished in mediation or conciliation proceedings are normally subject to without prejudice privilege, resulting in a duty to maintain confidentiality. However, this depends on the precise terms agreed by the parties before engaging in the process. A well-drafted agreement is vital to ensure confidentiality.
The issue of privilege and confidentiality in mediation or conciliation has yet to come before the Irish courts. However the Mediation Regulations set out arrangements for the confidentiality of mediation procedures used in any cross-border dispute to which the Mediation Directive applies.
Costs in ADR can be agreed between the parties at the outset, but without agreement, costs generally follow the event. Therefore, the unsuccessful party is directed to pay the costs of the successful party, including the costs of the arbitrator, mediator or conciliator and any experts. An agreement regarding costs can also form part of the ultimate agreement reached.
There is no statutory body offering ADR services in Ireland. Major commercial disputes are often resolved using lawyer mediators who are:
There are also five government nominated ADR bodies in Ireland, operating in specific sectors:
The Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Irish Branch; Arbitration Scheme for tour operators (email@example.com).
The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Financial Services Ombudsman's Bureau (email@example.com).
Office of the Pensions' Ombudsman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Direct Selling Association of Ireland (email@example.com).
In November 2010, the Law Reform Commission recommended the introduction of two new pieces of legislation:
Government approval for the general scheme of the Mediation Bill 2012 was recently secured. The proposed Bill will provide a clear framework for mediation and generally promote the use of ADR in civil and commercial matters. The Bill will require a solicitor to advise a client, before initiating proceedings, to consider mediation and require a claimant to sign a certificate confirming that mediation has been considered.
The proposed Courts (Consolidation and Reform) Bill proposes that 240 Court Acts should be replaced by a single act, regulating the conduct of court proceedings. The proposed Bill also promotes the use of ADR and requires that parties to civil proceedings comply with case conduct principles. Broadly, it requires that:
parties narrow issues as early as possible;
proceedings are conducted expeditiously;
ADR is encouraged and facilitated.
The government also recently published the Legal Services Regulation Bill 2011 (see Question 4). This Bill envisages the radical reform of the legal profession, particularly in terms of regulation of the profession.
All three of these Bills form part of the government's current Legislative Programme. Publication of the Mediation Bill is expected in late 2012, while the Courts (Consolidation and Reform) Bill is expected to be published in 2013.
The Legal Services Regulation Bill is currently being considered by the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) although it remains unclear when it will be enacted.
Qualified. England and Wales, 2002; Ireland, 2003 (admitted)
Areas of practice. Public law; regulatory enforcement and investigations; white collar and business crime; and banking and financial service disputes.