District Court Civil Procedure Rules.
The District Court Civil Procedure Rules were reformed significantly upon the occasion of the increase in District Court jurisdiction in February 2014. The changed rules followed the significant increase in the value of civil cases within the jurisdiction of the District Court. The rules apply to civil proceedings, which cover all non-criminal proceedings.
Where the District Court Rules do not make specific provision for any particular matter or there is doubt about the manner or form of procedure, the Court may give directions as to what procedure is to be adopted. Where no form is prescribed in relation to any step or notification in proceedings, the equivalent Circuit Court or High Court forms may be used.
The failure to comply with the Rules is an irregularity and does not generally render the civil proceedings or steps taken under them, void. If there is a failure to comply with the Rules, the Courts may
- set aside the proceedings either wholly or in part;
- set aside a step taken in the proceedings or any document or order; or
- exercise its powers under the rules to allow amendments and make orders dealing with the proceeding generally.
Where no step has been taken in proceedings which requires the filing of a document or notice to the Court under the Rules for more than 12 months, the party intending to proceed must give the other party, not less than one month’s notice in writing of that party\’s intention to proceed. The notice must be filed with the Court office.
Where no steps have been taken in proceedings, for more than 12 months, the Court may cause them to be listed before the Court to explain the failure to proceed. A party may file an explanation of the failure to proceed. The Court may remove them from the list of dormant proceedings. On listing, the Court may make such orders and give such directions as are in its opinion likely to ensure that the proceedings are prepared for trial in a manner which is just, expeditious and likely to minimise their cost.
Generally, the Court may extend or reduce the times fixed by the Rules for taking steps in proceedings. The Courts may declare any steps taken or acts done to be sufficient, notwithstanding that they were not undertaken within the time limits prescribed by the Rule. This power does not apply to a time period which is specifically prescribed by law.
Commencing Civil Proceedings
A claim notice must be taken as a whole. It may not be divided for the purpose of creating two or more claim notices. Where a claim is for more than the District Court level, the claimant may abandon the excess by so stating in the claim notice.
A claim notice must set out the name and address of the claimant and his address for service. If the claimant sues by a solicitor, the solicitor\’s name and address to must be provided. If he sues in person, it must set out his address for service. If he sues or is sued in a representative capacity, he must so state. He must set out the name and address of the respondent(s).
The solicitor must confirm, on request in writing, whether the claim notice is filed with his authority. If not, the Court must suspend proceedings and no further step is to be taken without the Court\’s consent.
Civil proceedings in the District Court are commenced by the filing for issue and service of a claim notice. The claim notice must be filed and issued by the District Court clerk for the area in which the respondent or one of the respondents ordinarily resides or carries on any business, profession or occupation.
Alternatively, at the election of the claimant, the proceedings may be taken
- in proceedings based on contract, other than consumer contracts, in the place where the contract is an alleged to have been made;
- in proceedings based on tort, in the place where the tort is alleged to have been committed;
- in ejectment proceedings, where the lands are situated.
Papers are filed with the clerk in person or by post. Civil proceedings must be heard and determined at the sitting of a Court for the transaction of civil business in the area in which the civil proceedings are brought.
The forms of claim notice are prescribed by the Court rules. There is a special form of debt claim. A claim notice for service outside the State must be in a separate prescribed form.
A claim notice must contain a statement of claim. A statement of claim must be divided into paragraphs, numbered consecutively. Each fact or matter stated in so far as practicable must be contained in separate paragraphs. It must contain in summary form, a statement of all material facts on which the claimant relies, but not evidence by which they are proved. It must contain the necessary particulars of every fact.
If a claim arises under any legislation, the statement of claim must identify the particular legislation relied on. It must state the monetary amount, other relief or remedy sought. It must state the place where and date when the claim arose.
In the case of a claim for a debt or liquidated damages, (i.e. a definite sum of damages) it must specify the amount claimed by way of the same and must include particulars of the claimant\’s demand for payment. If the claim is for payment of money, it must specify the amount claimed. If the claim is for a breach of contract, it must specify the alleged breach or breaches of contract.
Where the claim is based on a written document, it must state the date of the document and the parties to it. A statement of claim must contain a list of all correspondence and other documents on which the claimant will rely at the trial including the date if any and brief description of each document.
Where the claimant alleges that he is or was unable when the claim notice was issued, to include any of the information required to be specified in the claim notice, he or she must include a statement of the reasons why it is claimed that the information could not be provided at the time of issue of the claim notice. The claimant must when the claim notice is served or as soon as thereafter, whether by amendment or otherwise, provide such of the information required by the Rules as was not included in the claim notice.
In a debt claim, that claim notice must be endorsed with a statement providing that if the sum and the prescribed costs are paid within 10 days and without filing an appearance and defence, further cost may be avoided. The relevant costs are prescribed by law and are related to the amount claimed. If the amount is paid, then the civil proceedings are concluded and the claimant must notify the District Court accordingly.
Parties may bring certain types of proceedings, notwithstanding that the amount claimed is in excess of the District Court limits by mutual consent. There are procedures for signing and filing of the consent form with the Court.
A claim notice is valid for service for a year. If it is not served within a year on the respondent(s), the Court may extend its validity for a further period up to six months. The order may be made before or after the expiry of the claim notice. Similar provisions apply to witness summons. The claimant may apply for the extension without notice to the respondent. If the Court considers the respondent ought to be heard, it may adjourn the further hearing and direct the claimant to give notice to the respondent of the place and time at which the application was adjourned.
In civil proceedings, a document may be served by a summons server assigned to the Court area or any person authorised to do so by the party on whose behalf the document is served, unless the rules otherwise apply. In most areas, summons servers no longer stand appointed. Most District Court documents may be served by registered post in an envelope addressed to the other party, at his last known residence or place of business in the State.
A document in civil proceedings may be served by personal service by handing a copy of the document to the person served. Where it appears by evidence that the person to be served is personally within the jurisdiction and due and reasonable diligence have been exercised in endeavouring to effect service, it may be served by leaving it at his last or most usual place of residence or business with husband or wife, civil partner, child or other relative, employee, agents or persons in charge of the house, provided the person is not under 16 and is not himself party commencing civil proceedings.
Service on Particular Types of Persons
A documents may be served on a company by leaving it at or posting it to its registered office. If the company that has not given notice of the situation of its registered office, it may be served at the Companies Registration Office. A local authority, club, a statutory body may be served by leaving a copy of a document with any employee of the authority, board or society at its principal office or by sending it by registered post to the principal office.
Service on a partner must be made on any one or more of the partners or at the principal place of business within the State, on a person having control and management of the partnership business there.
A document may be effectively served on a child if served on his parent, guardian, or person with actual custody of the child. If the child has no mother, father or guardian, it may be served on the person with whom the child resides or on whose care the child is or on the child’s solicitor, unless the Court otherwise directs.
Service on a person of unsound mind may be made on his solicitor, committee, guardian ad litem or on the person with whom that person resides or under whose care he is unless the Court otherwise directs. Service on a prisoner or person detained in a place of detention may be made on the person in charge of the prison or place of detention, unless the Court otherwise decides.
Various Service Issue
Service of a document may be made on a solicitor acting on behalf of the party concerned. It may be effective if it is delivered to the solicitor, left at the solicitor\’s office, sent by post or document exchange to the solicitor.
In the case of document exchange delivery, delivery is effective, provided the solicitor concerned has confirmed in writing to the parties serving the document that he will accept documents through the document exchange service designated by him. This may be revoked by notice in writing. Statutory declarations verifying delivery or service through document exchange must exhibit a written confirmation of the solicitor\’s consent.
Where the Court is satisfied for good cause, which shows that service cannot be effected in the manner prescribed by the Rules, the Court may make an order for substituted service. The service may be permitted to be made by advertisement or other notice. Particulars of the order for substituted service must be endorsed on the original and each copy of the document served.
An application for substituted service may be made on an ex parte (single sided) application. Where the Court is satisfied that any particular method of service is not then available, it may by order in writing direct that the service of documents be effected in another manner as it may think proper. The Court may, if it considers just, deem service of any document actually effected in civil proceedings to be good and effective even though the rules were not complied with.
Proof of service may be given by evidence given verbally or a statutory declaration in a prescribed format. In the case of service by registered post, the declaration must be given not earlier than 10 days after the date of posting. A person who proves service by statutory declaration need not attend Court.
Where service is made by the registered prepaid post or ordinary post, it is deemed served when the envelope is or would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.
Service is invalid unless the original document is stamped as required under the Court Fee Rules.
Save where otherwise provided by another enactment or by these Rules, a document which must be served before a hearing in the Court must be served at least seven days or, in the case of service by registered prepaid post, at least 21 days, before the date fixed for the hearing concerned.
Subject to any order or direction of the Court, a document which must be filed with the Clerk before a hearing in the Court, including any statutory declaration of service, must be filed at least four days or, in the case of filing by prepaid post, at least seven days, before the date fixed for the hearing concerned.
A document which must be filed with the clerk before the hearing including statutory declarations of service must be filed at least four days or in the case of filing by prepaid post, at least seven days before the date of the hearing.
Service outside the State
There are special rules for service of District Court proceedings outside the State. See separately, the sections on European Union rules and International Conventions in respect of service outside the jurisdiction. Where European Union regulations apply, the prior consent of Court is not required. In other cases, the Hague Convention requires an application for permission to serve outside the State. The application is made ex parte and supported by affidavit or other evidence showing that there is a good basis for making the claim.
Service may be effected outside the State
- in proceedings for ejectment where the premises is within the State
- in the case of a contract, where the contract is made in the State or through an agent trading or residing in the State or by its terms governed by Irish law;
- in proceedings for breach of contract committed in the State whenever the contract is made;
- in proceedings in tort, where the tort is committed in the State;
- where relief is sought against a domiciled or ordinarily resident person;
- where a person outside the State is a necessary or proper party, proceedings duly served within the State and
- in proceedings relating to a child or person of unsound mind domiciled in the State.