Judge criticises lawyers’ approach to personal injury cases

High Court judge Gerard Hogan disallows claims for particulars by doctors

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said the practice on the ground relating to particulars sought in personal injury cases had reached something of a glorious art form revelled in by pleaders.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said the practice on the ground relating to particulars sought in personal injury cases had reached something of a glorious art form revelled in by pleaders.

Thu, Mar 28, 2013, 18:17

Three Co Mayo doctors have failed in a High Court bid to obtain what a judge ruled today was unnecessary information about a personal injury claim against them by a patient.

Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, in disallowing claims for particulars by doctors Sean and Thomas Moffatt (a former TD) and Maura Irwin, said legal teams had gone astray in their enthusiasm to interrogate every possible detail of an opponent’s claim.

The Moffatts, who trade as Ballina Medical Centre, and Dr Irwin are being sued by Agnes Armstrong (70) for damages for a fractured right hip she alleges she suffered in a fall from an examination couch in the centre in May 2009.

Mr Justice Hogan said Ms Armstrong contended she was endeavouring to transfer from the lying to the sitting position when she had been caused to slip and fall from the couch to the floor.

She had been taken by ambulance to Mayo General Hospital where she had been detained for a week during which she had undergone a part-hip replacement.

The judge said that pending resolution of issues before the court the defendants had not filed a defence to Ms Armstrong’s claim.

He had been asked to determine the extent to which Ms Armstrong was required to respond to a notice for particulars, and the extent to which the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 had affected such matters.

Mr Justice Hogan said solicitors for Dr Sean and Dr Thomas Moffatt had issued a notice for particulars which sought a range of information arising out of the incident and from her personal injury summons.

While two specific requests for information came within the scope of the 2004 Act, he disallowed “the vast majority” of others.

He said the practice on the ground relating to particulars sought in personal injury cases had reached something of a glorious art form revelled in by pleaders. Often no possible detail or dimension of a statement of claim remained unexplored.

Most solicitors and junior counsel simply yielded dutifully to these requests as it was often more convenient and expedient to do so rather than take a stand.

The courts should previously have been more prepared to strike out many of the rehearsed requests as oppressive and, in some cases, constituting an abuse of process.

“It must be candidly admitted that an important and useful forensic tool has become partially debased by the habitual and indiscriminating use of the notice for particulars procedure,” Mr Justice Hogan said.