Ryanair to pay portion of Peter Bellew’s legal costs, court rules
Airline’s action over non-compete clause had been dismissed
Former Ryanair chief operations officer Peter Bellew. Photograph: Garrett White
A judge has ruled Ryanair must pay a portion of its former chief operations officer Peter Bellew’s legal costs of having to defend the airline’s failed bid to block his move to rival EasyJet.
Ryanair had sought to compel Mr Bellew to comply with a covenant he would not join a competitor for a year following termination of work with Ryanair
Last month, when dismissing Ryanair’s action following an eight-day hearing, Mr Justice Senan ruled that a clause in Mr Bellew’s contract restraining him from working for another airline for 12 months was unenforceable.
While Ryanair had proved it had a legitimate interest in exacting the covenant from Mr Bellew, the judge said it went beyond what Ryanair had shown to be justified.
That covenant would prevent Mr Bellew from taking up employment with any European airline and Ryanair had not shown how its interests should extend beyond those airlines in direct competition with it in the low cost or low fare sector to those operating in the flag or high cost sector.
Mr Justice Allen found that Mr Bellew was not unfairly or unreasonably treated by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary in being excluded from participating in the 2019 round of share options.
Arising out of his judgement Mr Bellew’s lawyers sought an order compelling Ryanair to pay his legal costs.
Ryanair had argued that Mr Bellew had been unsuccessful in aspects of his defence and should therefore either have to contribute to Ryanair’s costs, or at least that both sides should pay their own costs.
In his judgment on the issue of costs, Mr Justice Allen said this was a case that was fought “tooth and nail by both sides”, which he added “both sides now agree took much longer than it might have”.
Both sides had blamed each other for the prolongation of the action, the judge said.
The judge said that Mr Bellew in his defence had raised issues concerning his treatment by Ryanair, and had made claims about his exclusion from a share option scheme for the airline’s senior staff.
Once these issues were raised by Mr Bellew the airline had no option other than to deal with them.
The judge said that it was common case that Mr Bellew had lost on these issues, the introduction of which had added significantly to the trial’s length.
Mr Bellew had, the judge said, lost “two significant and costly battles,” but he “had won the war”.
The judge said he was satisfied that justice of the case would be met by the payment of Ryanair of Mr Bellew’s legal costs in respect of two out of the eight days the case was at hearing.
The judge also ruled that it would be unjust to order Ryanair to pay Mr Bellew’s legal costs of making discovery of documents in relation to the issues on which he failed, or Mr Bellew’s costs of the additional days spent at trial.