New Appeal: How do the principles of ordering further particulars apply in complex commercial litigation?

In this judgment, Price Waterhouse Cooper (A Firm) v Quinn Insurance Limited (Under Administration), the Supreme Court granted PWC leave to appeal the Court of Appeal’s judgment overturning the High Court’s order that Quinn provide further particulars of alleged wrongdoing.

 

Background

Generally, an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court is determined by a three judge panel based only on written submissions. Due to the complexity of this case, a seven judge panel heard oral submissions and delivered a written judgment.

In 2010, the High Court appointed administrators to Quinn Insurance. To date, the deficit between Quinn’s assets and liabilities has exceeded €1.6 billion. PWC was Quinn’s auditors. Quinn is seeking damages of €800 million from PWC for negligence in performing its function.

PWC applied to the High Court for an order directing Quinn to provide further particulars of its alleged wrongdoing, specifically:

“In respect of the alleged understatement of each accident year within each class within each geographic region at 31 December 2005, please specify the reasons and the financial effect of each reason for the alleged understatement identified by the plaintiff in its re-estimation of the plaintiff’s technical provisions.”

Quinn claim that this is a matter for expert evidence at trial. Based on the same principles, the High Court granted PWC the order sought, and the Court of Appeal overturned that order.

PWC sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

O’Donnell J wrote the judgment for the seven judge panel. Granting leave to appeal, he stated:

  1. However, this case presents an issue in a particularly clear way, given the scale of the litigation, and the engagement of the parties. Although the case law on ordering further particulars is well known, the application of the principles set out in the case law has led to diametrically opposed results on this issue between the High Court on the one hand and the Court of Appeal on the other. Furthermore, while acknowledging the view advanced in the High Court case as to the necessity for more detailed particulars in complex commercial litigation, the argument in the Court of Appeal ultimately appears to have resolved itself to the application of principles in simple personal injuries actions. These matters suggest a degree of uncertainty as to the application of principles relating to the delivering of further particulars. The distinction between matters which require to be pleaded in advance and those which are matters of evidence may be easy to state, but as this case shows is more difficult to apply.
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