Recruiter wins €750,000 case against nursing homes
Posted on 25th January 2022 at 20:51
Court of Appeal rules against FirstCare Ireland over payment for relief staff to five homes
A healthcare recruiter is entitled to summary judgment of some €749,000 over non-payment by the owner of five nursing homes for relief staff provided over nearly two years, the Court of Appeal ruled.
Mr Justice Brian Murray, on behalf of the three-judge court, overturned a High Court ruling that Cecila Onyenmezu, trading as Dublin-based Norlia Recruitment Service, was not entitled to summary judgment against FirstCare Ireland Ltd, which manages the five nursing homes. They are: FirstCare (Blainroe) and FirstCare (Earlsbrook) in Co Wicklow; FirstCare Ireland Kilcock, Co Kildare; and Beneavin House and Beneavin Lodge, both in Dublin.
The defendants successfully argued in the High Court that there was sufficient uncertainty around the contractual relationship between the parties to afford the defendants with an arguable defence to the claim. The court decided the matter should therefore go to a full plenary hearing.
Norlia Recruitment appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing the High Court had erred in its decision.
Mr Justice Murray said Norlia was paid for the services in 2015 but received nothing for 2016 and 2017.
The basis the defendants chose to advance in support of the claim that the monies were not due was that there had not been compliance with agreed protocols relating to the contract. The court found there were no such agreed protocols, and the defendants have not now contended otherwise, Mr Justice Murray said.
Indeed, he said, they submitted that they stood over the High Court ruling in full and were opposing the appeal on the basis that the uncertainty of the contractual terms gave rise to a bona fide defence.
Therefore, the judge said, on the evidence, the only case made was a bare assertion, and the law is clear that this does not give them a basis for defending the action.
The fact that the defendants have denied that monies are due does not, in itself, advance their position at all, he said.
It was the judge’s view that the High Court erred in finding this case required a full hearing rather than a summary judgment. Ms Onyenmezu, in her evidence on behalf of Norlia, had established clear and definite terms governing the payment for the services, he said.
In the absence of credible evidence from the defendants that these terms had not been agreed, there was no basis for the conclusion that there was any uncertainty affecting the entitlement of Norlia/Ms Onyenmezu to recover the amounts due, he said.
The judge’s preliminary view was Ms Onyenmezu was also entitled to her costs.
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