Court of Appeal finds An Post cannot demand 50 per cent of moneys lost in kidnapping case from postmaster

in a procedure of this kind operates to create an estoppel against the party who elected to avail of that procedure” (Corrigan v. Irish Land Commission  I.R. 317 and The State (Byrne) v. Frawley  I.R. 326.)

The appellant also argued that he should have been given a copy of the report compiled for his appeal.

In essence, the appellant’s argument was that he was entitled to see the nature of the comments and recommendations made by the party who gathered the evidence prior to any decision being made by the party to whom the report was transmitted.

The Court observed that a decision maker is not entitled to act on the basis of information concerning issues of fact which was not disclosed to the party affected by the ultimate decision, and cited Traynor v. Ryan  IESC 36, 2 I.R. 564, Georgopoulus v. Beaumont Hospital Board  3 I.R. 132, Aziz v. Midland Health Board, Supreme Court, 29th October 1999, Delaney v. Central Bank of Ireland  IEHC 212 and Somers v. Minister for Defence  IEHC 447.

The Court determined that had the facts been in controversy “then it seems incontestable in the light of these authorities that the appellant would have been entitled to have seen the report which had been prepared by the person who gathered the evidence for onward transmission to the ultimate decision-maker.”

However, in this case the facts were not in controversy, but had been accepted by the appellant. His argument was therefore dismissed.

Further, the appellant argued that there had been inappropriate contact between Mr McGann and the decision maker.

The Court acknowledged that there should not have been contact, as while the intervention was probably well-intentioned, “Conversations of that kind have always the potential for potential confusion and misunderstandings, not least in fraught and difficult cases of this kind.”

However, the Court could not conclude that this conversation was of such a nature such as exhibited pre-judgment or bias on the part of the decision maker.

Finally, the appellant argued that he should be held liable for 50% of the remaining moneys.

The Court found that while a postmaster is contractually liable to repay missing moneys if this is caused by the negligence of the postmaster in question, a claim of this kind could not be unilaterally determined by An Post as if this were some form of liquidated demand, to be ascertained in the same manner as if the claim was made pursuant to a demand for payment at an agreed rate for contractual services.

The Court observed that “It may well be that An Post is contractually entitled to this sum. But where, as here, the sum is disputed then the remedy for An Post is to sue the appellant for this sum as an unliquidated claim for damages for breach of contract.”

The Court therefore allowed the appeal on this ground, but dismissed the appeal otherwise.

  • by Rachel Killean for Irish Legal News