Huge legal bill for cab drivers

Three cab drivers who failed in a legal challenge to the deregulation of the taxi industry in 2000 face a multimillion legal bill after a High Court order.

Mr Justice Michael Peart, who heard the case for more than 30 days, yesterday awarded costs against the three, which are expected to run into millions.

The judge granted their counsel a 28-day stay on the costs order in the event of an appeal.

Alphonsus Muldoon and Vincent Malone sued the environment minister, Dublin City Council, and the State while Thomas Kelly sued the minister, Ennis Town Council, and the State. Theirs were test cases for more than 1,100 similar claims by taxi drivers.

The three sought damages and declaratory orders claiming that because the minister and/or the local authorities permitted a licensing regime to operate as it did over so many years, they suffered immediate and significant losses as a result of overnight deregulation and liberalisation of the market.

Mr Muldoon and Mr Kelly claimed the minister and the State acted beyond his powers by delegating the role of deciding on the number of licences to the local authorities and in breach of their right to earn a livelihood and their constitutional rights.

The defendants denied the claims. Last October, Mr Justice Peart ruled the claims made by all three men must be dismissed.

The judge said the issue of whether there should be costs for two senior counsel for the State and Dublin City Council was within the power of the taxing master, who decides what level of costs there should be where there is a dispute about them. While it was a long case, that issue will be a matter for the taxing master and his order would “remain silent” about it.


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