Case Update: Proceedings Issued Prior to Grant of Administration Not Maintainable

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The High Court has found that proceedings issued against the personal representative of a man fatally injured in a road traffic accident were statute-barred in circumstances where the proceedings were issued prior to the grant of Letters of Administration issuing (Leonard v Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland [2011] IEHC 550).

The deceased died while driving a motorcycle when uninsured. The plaintiff, who was the deceased’s brother and a passenger on the motorcycle, issued proceedings against the deceased’s mother and also against the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).  At the time the proceedings were issued, the grant of Letters of Administration had not issued and the deceased’s mother had not been appointed as the administrator of the estate of the deceased.

The Court referred to the principle in Gaffney v Vaughan, i..e the authority of an administrator of an estate of a deceased person derives from the grant of the Letters of Administration and that until he obtains the grant, the estate of the deceased person does not vest in him.  In that case, Laffoy J held that when a summons is issued, the person named as a defendant must be competent at the time to answer the alleged wrongdoing. In this case, the person named as the defendant, Ms Leonard, had no status as the representative of the deceased when the summons issued. The subsequent obtaining of a grant of administration could not cure such a fundamental defect.

The Court noted that although the proceedings were issued within two years of the date of the death of the deceased, they were issued against a named defendant who was not the personal representative.  Accordingly, the Court found that the proceedings were not maintainable and that it had no jurisdiction to deal with the issues raised. As the two year period had since passed, the Court found that the MIBI was entitled to proceed on the basis that the proceedings against the estate were statute-barred and would be struck out.

View the decision of the High Court here.