16 Aug 2022

Companies lose court appeal on award for Tipperary motorway workers

Workers had been awarded €1m

Companies lose court appeal on award for Tipperary motorway workers

Companies lose court appeal on award for Tipperary motorway workers

The Court of Appeal has struck out appeals against damages awards made to dozens of Portuguese workers who claimed they lived in terrible conditions when they were building a section of the M7 outside Nenagh in 2007 and 2008.

Last year, the High Court awarded the workers damages of over €1m for breach of contract against Portuguese companies  Rosas Construtores SA, Constructocoes Gabriel AS Couto SA, and Empresa Deconstrucoes Amandio Carvalho SA. 

The companies all trade under the title RAC Contractors or RAC Eire Partnership.

The workers claimed they were underpaid, and lived in conditions described as a "work camp," while working for the firms that were contracted to construct the section of motorway between Limerick and Nenagh.

The High Court's decision was appealed by the defendants.

This Monday, the three-judge Court of Appeal, comprised of Mr Justice Michael Peart, Ms Justice Marie Baker, Ms Justice Caroline Costello struck out the appeals against the awards, which total more than €1m plus the workers' legal costs.

The workers represented by David McGrath, SC, instructed by solicitor Tom O'Regan, had argued in a preliminary motion that the appeals should be struck out on the grounds they are an abuse of process and had an ulterior motive of delaying paying the workers the sums due to the men. 

The motion was opposed by lawyers representing the defendants. 

Giving the court's decision, Ms Justice Costello said that the appeals in these cases would add further years of delay.

The explanation to the court, the judge said, was not that the employers cannot pay, but rather they will not pay.

The employers' behaviour, she said, was extremely serious and persistent. It was a calculated abuse of the court process rather than a "bona fida" use of their right of access to the courts. 

Their conduct, she said, was designed to delay and frustrate the conduct of the cases and payment of sums due.

The judge also noted that in the cases before the court liability was not at issue and all the cases amount to an assessment of damages only. 

At the end of the day, the employers will be obliged to pay the workers compensation and their legal costs.  

The court agreed with the workers that the employers were primarily concerned with delaying the proceedings as much as possible.

This, the judge said, amounted to an abuse of process. 

The public interest in the proper administration of justice was that the appeals should be brought to an end, the judge added.  

There comes a point when there should be finality in litigations. In my opinion that point has now been reached in these proceedings," the judge said, dismissing the all of the appeals. 

Following the judgment, lawyers for the employers told the court of their intention to appeal its decision to the Supreme Court.

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