A recent decision of the High Court offers some useful guidance on the appropriate time for a defendant to bring an application to strike out proceedings for delay or want of prosecution and also considers the merits of serving a “holding” Statement of Claim pleaded in general terms.
In Boliden Tara Mines Ltd v Irish Pensions Trust Ltd, the High Court agreed to extend time for the delivery of a Statement of Claim, notwithstanding the passing of seven years since the proceedings were served on the defendant. In the ordinary course, a plaintiff will deliver a Statement of Claim with the plenary summons or within 21 days of a request by the defendant. The judge accepted that the plaintiff’s delay was inordinate and inexcusable. However, she refused to strike out the proceedings on the basis that the defendant did not bring a motion to strike out the proceedings at the appropriate time and had, in a sense, acquiesced in the delay.
The courts are generally slow to strike out proceedings and careful consideration is required before embarking on an application to strike out. While each case will depend on its own facts, it seems clear from this decision that if a plaintiff serves a Notice of Intention to proceed after a prolonged period of inactivity and then fails to progress the proceedings, the defendant should review the history of the proceedings to determine whether there are any grounds to dismiss the claim. If there are any such grounds, the defendant and his legal team should act without delay.