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Couple sue after being 'loudly and abusively accused of not having paid bill'

Patrick O’Connor alleged he had to empty his pockets in search of a receipt.

Image: Shutterstock/CandyBox Images

A JUDGE HAS has refused to strike out a defamation claim by a couple who allege they were “loudly and abusively” wrongly accused of not having paid their dinner bill in a Dublin restaurant.

Barrister Cormac Quinn told the Circuit Civil court yesterday that Tanya Shannon and her partner Patrick O’Connor had paid a staff member “called Paddy” at the till in The Arc Bar and Restaurant for a dinner they had there with their two children in September 2010.

As they were gathering up their belongings to leave they claimed they had been approached by a manager “who began questioning them in a loud, abusive and accusatory manner for about 10 minutes” leading to Mr O’Connor having to publicly empty out his pockets in search of a receipt.

Receipt

Mr Quinn, who appeared with Eugene Smartt solicitors for the couple who live at Harelawn Avenue, Clondalkin, said that 40 minutes later “Paddy” had returned to the restaurant and confirmed that the couple had paid, issuing them with a receipt.

Counsel for Lackabeg Limited, trading as Arc Bar and Restaurant, Liffey Valley, said the company was asking the court to strike out the claims on the grounds they failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action for defamation.

He said the couple’s identical civil bills, while outlining the gist of their complaints and what they were trying to imply, had not, as required in defamation cases, quoted precise defamatory words allegedly spoken by the defendant’s staff.

The couple had taken from the incident that each of them was being made out to be a thief, but he asked had they been justified in coming to that conclusion. Without specifically quoted words the defendant could not plead qualified privilege.

This caused a serious problem as to what the words were, if such words had been spoken and if they might have other and different meanings as those put forward by the plaintiffs.

Detailed account

Judge Jacqueline Linnane said that from her reading of the papers there was a fairly detailed account of what had taken place. The defendant in 2011 and again in April 2014 had stated they had forwarded papers to counsel for the purpose of drafting a defence which had not materialised.

“By any reading of the papers you have been in serious default in delivering a defence and in fact one could perhaps infer that it is a delaying tactic and being obstructive in relation to the plaintiffs trying to progress their case,” Judge Linnane told the defendant.

She refused to strike out the couple’s claims and awarded costs to their legal team.

She also awarded costs against the restaurant company in the couple’s motion for judgment in default of defence but allowed the defendant seven days for the drafting and entry of a defence against the claims by Shannon and O’Connor.

The case is expected to proceed to trial.

Read: Man loses action against nightclub because he was ‘engaged in horseplay’ >

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Ray Managh

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