Bringing a professional negligence claim in Ireland


Bringing a professional negligence claim in Ireland

 

The seminal case in bringing professional negligence claims in Ireland is a decision of the Supreme Court in Cooke -v- Cronin in 1999. In that case the Supreme Court held that the commencement of a professional negligence action amounts to an abuse of process of the Court if it is brought without securing an opinion from a relevant and suitable expert establishing that there is a prima facie case of negligence against the professional in question.

 

In that particular case an allegation of medical negligence was supported only by a report from a GP who had only met the Plaintiff on one occasion. The Supreme Court held that this did not amount to an appropriate level of expert evidence establishing reasonable grounds for such a claim. Mr. Justice Keane noted that a serious responsibility rests on the legal profession in instituting proceedings against professional persons.

 

This decision was upheld in a case in March 2020 in Loomes -v- Rippington where the Defendants, in defending an application for costs arising from Probate Proceedings in which the Plaintiff, in his capacity as Solicitor had acted for the Defendant, an allegation of professional negligence was made against the Solicitor in question.

 

In his decision Mr. Justice Charles Meenan referred to the Cooke -v- Cronin decision. In this particular case there was no expert evidence to support the allegation of professional negligence. Mr. Justice Meenan held that the test in Cooke -v- Cronin applied as much to a Counterclaim as it did to the institution of proceedings and he rejected the Defendant’s Counterclaim on the basis that it amounted to an abuse of process in the absence of appropriate expert evidence.

 

There may be occasions when issuing proceedings can be justified in the absence of expert evidence where there was insufficient time to obtain such expert evidence and where there may be a case of the statute of limitations making such a claim statute barred. However, if proceedings known as a “protective summons” is issued in such circumstances the Plaintiff’s Solicitor has an obligation to then obtain the appropriate expert report as a matter of urgency before serving the proceedings on the Defendant.

 

For any advice in relation to any litigation matter, please do not hesitate to contact Brendan Dillon, Donna Phelan or Conor White on 01-2960666.