Amy Connolly: Is a solicitor entitled to attend an engineering inspection?

Amy Connolly: Is a solicitor entitled to attend an engineering inspection?

Amy Connolly

Amy Connolly of Cantillons Solicitors writes on a recent decision concerning solicitors’ right to attend engineering inspections.

As litigation solicitors, we have always found it extremely useful to attend any engineering inspection arranged for the purposes of investigating the cause of any particular accident. This applies whether we are acting for a plaintiff or a defendant.

Solicitors who are involved in litigation will know that invariably (and correctly) claims handlers for a defendant will attend such inspections. The advantage of doing so is that you can get a greater understanding of how the accident happened and what are the strengths and weaknesses.

We do not subscribe to the theory that, in some way or other, an engineer is at large, and/or that a plaintiff is confined to what the engineer thinks is relevant. The inspection should be done in a collaborative way, and the obligation is, in our view, on a solicitor to give (some) direction to the engineer.

We have also found that attendance at an engineering inspection is of considerable assistance when briefing counsel. In order to instruct counsel properly, one must understand fully the mechanics and background to the accident. Having attended the inspection, and understood fully the context to the accident, an explanation can be given in relation to the circumstances of an accident in a way that is readily understandable by lawyers (as opposed to engineers).

In the past, rarely, if ever, was an objection taken to solicitors attending with the engineer at the inspection. We have attended inspections at chemical factories, manufacturing plants, hospitals, industries of various sorts, boats, planes and other locations.

In more recent times, on rare occasions, defendants have sought to suggest that they will object to the solicitor attending at the inspection. We have had to litigate this matter, both in the Circuit Court and the High Court. Thankfully, we have been successful in those applications.

Most recently a matter which Cantillons Solicitors was involved in (Murphy v Stryker) came before Mr Justice Coffey in the High Court. In that instance, the plaintiffs were the family of a deceased employee of a defendant company who died in tragic circumstances. Inspection facilities were not readily granted, and it was necessary to apply for an order directing that inspection facilities be granted to the engineer and a solicitor.

Prior to the hearing of the motion, the defendants relented and agreed to the engineer being granted facilities, but objected to the solicitor attending. After hearing arguments from both sides, Mr Justice Coffey directed that the defendants provide inspection facilities to both the engineer and the solicitor.

We hope that this decision has now settled the matter — solicitors can attend engineering inspections.

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