Legal action is almost always subject to strict time limits and failure to seek prompt professional advice can have catastrophic consequences. In one case, a woman’s hopes of challenging a €7.3 million debt claim against her were stymied by a three-week delay in her lodging an appeal.
Following proceedings abroad, a judgement for over €2.2 million was entered in favour of a bank against the woman and her husband. Over the years that followed, the debt was said to have grown to more than €7.3 million and the bank began enforcement action against properties which the woman owned in the UK.
The bank registered the foreign judgment in England and served it upon the woman. However, she claimed that that was the first time that she had heard of the matter and that her husband had deliberately concealed the proceedings from her. Her signature on a letter of retainer to overseas solicitors was said to have been forged.
Under the rules of the court, she had two months from the date of service in which to lodge an appeal against the registration. However, that deadline was missed by 22 days. In refusing to hear her appeal out of time, the High Court found that it had no general power to waive the mandatory time limit.
The Court could only do so if the strict application of the deadline impaired the very essence of the right of appeal or amounted to a breach of the human right to a fair hearing. There was in any event no obvious justification for condoning the delay in circumstances where the woman was aware of the registration and had had ample time in which to appeal.