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Discovery – a recent Supreme Court decision

By December 20, 2019June 26th, 2024No Comments


Discovery – a recent Supreme Court decision

Tobin v Minister for Defence [2019] IESC 57

A recent Supreme Court decision overturned a Court of Appeal decision which held that a High Court discovery order was too broad and placed too great a costs burden on the Defendant. The High Court order was upheld.

What is Discovery?

Discovery is where a party to proceedings seeks to inspect documents held by another party to the dispute which are relevant to the issues in the case.

Legal Discovery Test

The legal test for determining the necessity of discovery is that it must be both relevant and necessary for the fair disposal of the case and to save costs. Two further considerations include proportionality and that more efficient methods of disclosure should be pursued first.

In Tobin, the Supreme Court felt it was not necessary for a requesting party to establish that they have exhausted all other methods before seeking discovery (such as Interrogatories). The Supreme Court also noted that although not all documents discovered make it into evidence at the trial, discovery does have the effect of keeping the parties honest as oral evidence would have to be consistent with the discovered documents.

An interesting point from the Supreme Court decision was that because the Defendant put the Plaintiff on full proof of his claim, the broader discovery was allowed. The same would appear to apply to a Plaintiff who pleads very broadly – they can expect broader discovery orders against them too.

The Impact of the decision

The Court of Appeal decision appeared to suggest a reform in discovery but the Supreme Court decision makes clear that the substantive test for discovery is unchanged and that there is no need to exhaust other methods first.


If you have any queries on any aspect of litigation, please contact Niall MacCarthy or Brendan Dillon of this office on (01) 2960666 or