The Court of Appeal has struck out, as an abuse of process, appeals against damages awarded to dozens of Portuguese workers who claimed they lived in terrible conditions when building a section of the N7 motorway in 2007 and 2008.
The High Court last year awarded damages of over €1 million against Portuguese companies Rosas Construtores SA, Constructocoes Gabriel AS Couto SA, and Empresa Deconstrucoes Amandio Carvalho SA, for breach of contract.
The companies all trade under the title RAC Contractors or RAC Eire Partnership.
The workers claimed they were underpaid and lived in conditions described as a "work camp" while they were working for the firms, contracted to construct the section of motorway between Limerick and Nenagh.
The High Court’s decision over the damages, plus its decision to award costs against the defendants, was appealed by the defendants.
On Monday, a three-judge Court of Appeal, comprising Mr Justice Michael Peart, Ms Justice Marie Baker and Ms Justice Caroline Costello granted a preliminiary application to strike out the appeals.
The workers, represented by David McGrath SC, instructed by solicitor Tom O’Regan, had argued the appeals should be struck out as an abuse of process.
The defendants, it was argued, had an ulterior motive of delaying paying the workers the sums due to them.
Lawyers representing the defendants opposed the motion.
Giving the COA decision, Ms Justice Costello said the appeals would add further years of delay.
The explanation to the court is not that the employers cannot pay but, rather, they will not pay, she said.
The employers behaviour was “extremely serious and persistent” and was a calculated abuse of the court process rather than a ‘bona fida’ use of their right of access to the courts.
The court agreed with the workers the employers were primarily concerned with delaying the proceedings as much as possible and that this amounted to an abuse of process.
The public interest in the proper administration of justice was the appeals should be brought to an end, the judge added.
There comes a point when there should be finality in litigations and that point “has now been reached in these proceedings,” she said.
Following the decision, lawyers for the employers told the CoA intends to appeal its decision to the Supreme Court.