Limits On Jurisdiction In High Court Summary Proceedings


Irish procedure has a specific summary procedure for cases which are suitable for summary disposition without pleadings and on affidavit. Although the rules provide for various types of case to be progressed using this mechanism,1 the most common type involves liquidated damages claims. In the High Court, the summary mechanism for such cases involves the issuance of a summary summons, in which the plaintiff gives specifics of the debt and outlines in detail the nature of how it is due. Once the summons is served on a defendant and an appearance is entered, the plaintiff may then issue a motion grounded on affidavit seeking liberty to enter final judgment returnable before the master of the High Court. The defendant may seek to defend the motion by filing a relying affidavit. Under the rules, in uncontested cases, the master may deal with the matter summarily.2 If the case is contested, the master must transfer the motion for hearing by the High Court when it is administratively ready for hearing, when all affidavits are filed and sworn.3


The High Court recently dealt with an appeal against the master's decision in a case where a financial institution had sought judgment against the defendants for sums due under a loan agreement.4 Appearances were entered to the proceedings and replying affidavits were filed in respect of the motion seeking liberty to enter final judgment. The plaintiff conceded that the matter was contested and appropriate to be transferred to the High Court list. However, the defendant argued that since the plaintiff was aware when the proceedings commenced that the defendant had a substantive defence, the proceedings should be struck out as they were inappropriate for the summary procedure. In a reserved decision, the master acceded to the defendants' request, striking out the proceedings and commenting that they could be recommenced as a plenary action. The plaintiff appealed to the High Court.


In hearing the appeal, the court noted that the procedure governing the hearing of proceedings commenced by summary summons is set out in Order 37 of the Rules of the Superior Courts. The court reviewed the relevant provisions of the order and drew specific attention to those giving the master power over uncontested claims on one hand and contested claims on the other. The court recited from Order 37, Rule 6 which deals with contested cases, and stated simply that in such cases "the Master shall...

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