ESB fears millions of euro may have to be paid out for allowing power lines over private land if the issue of how long a claimant has to bring a claim is not determined.
The fears have emerged in a High Court case in which one landowner sought compensation some seven years after a line was placed on his land.
The High Court has been asked to determine what is the applicable time limit for bringing such claims under the Statute of Limitations Act 1957, which sets certain limits depending on the type of action.
The claim at the centre of the action relates to a power line for the Gorman-Meath Hill line installed in 2011 over lands in Meath Hill, Co Meath.
The claimant is Vincent Callan, suing as the legal representative of the estate of Edward Callan.
The claim for compensation was lodged in 2018. In response, ESB raised the issue of its validity with regard to the Statute of Limitations. ESB says the claimant then sought the appointment of an arbitrator to deal with the claim.
Property arbitrator Paul Good was appointed, and a hearing commenced in July 2020 when ESB applied to have a case stated for an opinion of the High Court on the law.
The arbitrator asked the court to determine whether the Statute of Limitations Act 1957 applied to statutory arbitrations in relation to land acquisition and ESB’s power under law to enter land.
He also asked what is the applicable limitation period if the 1957 Act applies. If it does apply, the court is asked to determine what is the date from which time starts to run against the claimant with regard to lodging a claim and applying for the appointment of an arbitrator.
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ESB was this week granted permission to have the case dealt with in the fast-track Commercial Court after Mr Justice Denis McDonald was told it has implications for a significant number of similar claims.
Avril Keogh, a solicitor with ESB, said in an affidavit it was “of critical importance” to ESB that the question of the applicable time limit be determined.
She said there are more than 180,000km of electricity lines crossing and serving the country and the right to compensation was determined by the Supreme Court 35 years ago.
ESB, as a public authority, should not have the “threat of claims hanging over it forever and claimants should have an incentive to bring claims as soon as possible, particularly as evidence will often become less reliable and more difficult to secure as time passes”.
With the significant volume of claims involved, which in total exceed several million euro, and the significant costs associated with arbitrations, a determination of the applicable limitation is integral to the fair and expeditious resolution of these claims, she said.