Court dismisses Dawson action against IBA


An action for damages taken by two Dublin brothers against the Irish Brokers Association (IBA) was dismissed at the High Court yesterday after the brothers refused to accept a ruling made by the trial judge.

The two brokers, Mr Albert and Mr Dudley Dawson, have said that they will now appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rejects the Dawsons' appeal, they face not only the loss of the more than £500,000 damages awarded three years ago in the original case, but also a substantial bill for legal costs. If the Supreme Court upholds the appeal, it may assess damages itself or return to case to the High Court for a new trial on the damages issue only.

Yesterday, on foot of a submission from the IBA, Mr Justice Budd dismissed the action and awarded costs against Mr Albert and Mr Dudley Dawson, who represented themselves in court. Afterwards, Mr Albert Dawson said they would appeal the judge's decision to the Supreme Court.

The unexpected development came on the fifth day of the hearing.

In a High Court case three years ago, the Dawsons were awarded more than £500,000 damages after a jury found they were defamed by the IBA. On appeal by the IBA, the Supreme Court ruled the award was excessive and sent the case back to the High Court for a new trial on the issue of damages only.

That trial began last week with legal argument in the absence of the jury.

Just half an hour after it opened before the jury last Friday, Mr Albert Dawson was taken ill and the hearing was adjourned until yesterday.

The case arose out of a 1992 circular in which the brothers - Mr Albert Dawson (63), Knocknashee, Goatstown, Dublin, and Mr Dudley Dawson (59), Maywood Drive, Raheny, Dublin, trading as A E Dawson & Sons, insurance brokers, Maywood Drive, Raheny, - claimed they were defamed.

The circular, sent by the IBA to members in 1992, stated that the Dawsons' firm was no longer a member of the Association. The IBA denied the claim.

At the outset of the resumed hearing yesterday, Mr Justice Budd told the Dawsons that if they chose not to carry on the case on the basis of rulings he had made, there would be an application by the defendants to discharge the jury and for costs already incurred. The rulings, made in the absence of the jury, related to what matters the judge would permit the brothers to open to the jury in pursuance of their claim for damages.

The judge said he had, when making the rulings last week, told the Dawsons they would have to accept the rulings whether they liked them or not and he would have to proceed with the case. Since they had already won in relation to the defamation aspect of the case, all that was involved was the award of damages, the judge pointed out.

Mr Justice Budd said he had tried to spell out the situation to the Dawsons to ensure they fully understood it. At that stage, he said he would adjourn the hearing for a time to give them an opportunity to discuss the situation.

Mr Albert Dawson said they had already decided what they would do. He asked that the question of costs be reserved. The judge told the brothers that if they refused to go ahead with the case, there was going to be an application to discharge the jury, to dismiss the claim entirely, to pay out the money lodged in court and for costs. "All the good you have achieved so far goes out the window," he said.

Mr Albert Dawson said that, as there were matters of the "most serious national interest" in the case: "We must do our duty."

When the jury was recalled, Mr Justice Budd said the Dawsons had been invited to continue the opening of the case but he understood the position was that they did not wish to continue to address the jury. Mr Garrett Cooney, SC for the IBA, applied to dismiss the plaintiffs' claim against the defendants, to have the jury discharged and for costs.

Mr Justice Budd said he would dismiss the action and allow costs to the IBA on a party-and-party basis. A lodgement in court was to be paid out to the IBA, together with interest on it.