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Orders for discovery against private hospital in dispute with HSE

By: James Cross BL

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High Court, in discovery motions in proceedings brought by a private hospital against the HSE for alleged breach of an agreement to pay the private for making available to the HSE certain services and facilities during the Covid 19 pandemic: (1) refuses the motion for discovery brought by the private hospital, on the grounds that the discovery sought was not relevant or necessary and that the subjective belief of a party as to the existence or otherwise of a breach of contract is also irrelevant; and (2) grants the HSE discovery sought, on the grounds that the documents sought were relevant and necessary for both HSE and the trial judge to properly evaluate the claims and counter-claims of the parties in this case relate to matters raised in the pleadings.

Discovery – commercial court – additional requirements for health services by patients suffering from Covid-19 - HSE opened negotiations with the proprietors of private health facilities to secure access for public patients to the medical capacities of private facilities to address the emergency presented by the new pandemic – agreement - Mater Private made available to HSE certain services and facilities as described in the agreement, on the terms and conditions set out in that document - common access to services in the facilities of Mater Private whereby all patients would be eligible for treatment as public patients for the duration of the agreement – initial payment – further payment not made – seek sum of €6,629,000 – HSE claim that the sum was not properly due and owing - resolution of this dispute will revolve around an analysis of the services, if any, provided by Mater Private to HSE under the arrangements contemplated by the agreement, and an interpretation and/or application of the contractual terms to calculate the liability, if any, of HSE to Mater Private arising from the agreement – relevant terms of the agreement – each party has brought discovery motions - Mater Private motion - HSE motion – Court satisfied that the position of the HSE is correct in relation to both applications - satisfied that the material sought by Mater Private does not satisfy the tests of relevance or necessity - central issue of relevance in these proceedings is whether HSE breached the terms of the agreement by the refusal on 19 June 2020 to pay any further sum to Mater Private pursuant to the agreement - resolution of that issue may require interpretation of the terms of the agreement - whether there is an agreement, or whether an agreement has been breached, the common law of contract adopts an objective stance - the subjective belief of a party as to the existence or otherwise of a breach of contract is also irrelevant – substantive issue in the proceedings is whether the claim by Mater Private to recover costs is within the ambit of the agreement - actions or omissions of HSE in its internal processes are not of any relevance to proof of breach of agreement - defence of HSE raises the issue as to what services were actually supplied, and whether the costs submitted by Mater Private in respect of those services fall within the domain of costs recoverable under the terms of the agreement - satisfied that the discovery sought does in fact relate to matters raised in the pleadings - satisfied that the documents sought by HSE are relevant and necessary for both HSE and the trial judge to properly evaluate the claims and counter-claims of the parties in this case.

Note: This is intended to be a fair and accurate report of a decision made public by a court of law. Any errors should be notified to the editor and will be dealt with accordingly.

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