Delays in Litigation
The following case shows that there is a movement towards even assessment of the rights of both the plaintiff and the defendant to an action proceeding without inordinate delay.
Derek Crowley v Roach Products (Ireland) Ltd and Others (2006)
In this case the plaintiffs sought an extension of the time allowed to deliver his statement of claim. The Master of the High Court Mr Edmond Honahan examined the case in the context of the European Convention of Human Rights 2003 and the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. The European Convention states that litigants on both sides of the litigation have an entitlement to a hearing within a reasonable time. The Courts Act now provides that the limitation period for an action is two years and that the initiating summons should contain all of the materials that would previously have been set out in the statement of claim. The plaintiff's cause of action in the case accrued in 1998. The Master discussed in some detail the question of whether the parties involved should play the "blame game" and decide whether an extension is appropriate based partly on the behaviour of the parties. He noted that a decision could have repercusions elsewhere (presumably an action against the lawyers) and that this may tend to make the courts more sympathetic to allowing the case to proceed. He expressed the view that the blame game was unedifying and in uncharted territory. It was held that a delay of three years from accrual of the cause of action in the delivery of a statement of claim was prima facie a breach of the defendant's entitlement to a hearing within a reasonable time pursuant to article 6.