The District Court is a quick, cheap and efficient method of resolving small claims. Claims of a civil (i.e. not criminal) nature which fall within the District Court include
• Debts for less than €15,000
• Defective Products
• Smaller commercial Landlord and Tenant matters (Residential Matters are dealt with by the PRTB)
• Disputes between adjoining neighbours involving party walls, hedges or overhanging trees
• Applications for Noise reduction under Environmental legislation.
Normally a matter will be heard within a matter of months. In addition to making an aware a District Court judge may award costs, and these will normally be given to the successful party. The costs which the losing side will have to pay are according to a scale, however additional items such as witness expenses may be added. All told however, the District Court normally represents a speedy and affordable way to resolve disputes.
The Circuit Court, like the District Court has a limited jurisdiction. However in the case of the Circuit Court in civil proceedings (other than personal injury claims) this is from €15,001 to €75,000. The jurisdiction of the Circuit Court for personal injury actions (as defined in Section 2 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004) is limited to €60,000 unless all parties agree that it be unlimited.
Matters commonly heard in the Circuit Court include
- Debts of up to €75,000
- Personal Injury matters where the damages are not likely to exceed €60,000
- Property disputes, e.g. concerning ownership, rights of way
- Substantial disputes with Commercial Tenants
Costs in the Circuit Court are invariably higher than the District Court, but less than the High Court. The procedure in the Circuit Court also tends to be slower, and in some cases it is prudent to brief a barrister.
Beginning a Circuit Court case is not something that should be done without the best of legal advice. O’Dowd Solicitors will advise you as to the strengths and weaknesses of you case, and advise you of the likely costs involved at the outset.
The High Court is one of two Courts explicitly referred to in the Irish Constitution, the other being the Supreme Court. It is set out in Article 34 that it has “power to determine all matters and questions whether of law or fact, civil or criminal”. It goes without saying that commencing or defending a High Court matter is a very big deal and you need the best advice before you begin and during the proceedings.
The High Court will deal with disputes of greater value that either the District or Circuit Court. The High Court will also deal with matters such the Judicial Review of a decision made by a state body, such as planning decisions; disputes involving high value property and challenges to the Constitutionality of Legislation. Personal Injury matters are often heard in the High Court in cases where the Injuries Board are unable to assess the claim or where a party is not satisfied with their assessment.