New booklet shows how unclear communication can lead to costly court cases


A new booklet called ‘Plain English and the law: the legal consequences of clear and unclear communication’ was launched on Thursday 9 February 2017. The booklet shows how plain English can save companies time and money by avoiding unnecessary legal costs. It is a joint initiative by the National Adult Literacy Agency and Mason Hayes & Curran.
The booklet presents ‘lessons’ from three Irish legal cases where the interpretation of language was central to the outcome of the court case. Two of the legal case studies show how unclear language was argued in court. A third legal case study shows how a case was won because it was proven that a company had provided clear information to a consumer.

The court cases and lessons are:
1. Ickendel Ltd V Bewley Café Grafton Street: a lesson for landlords and tenants
2. Corbally V Medical Council: a lesson for regulators
3. ACC Bank V Kelly: a lesson for consumers and banks
Justice Peter Kelly, President of the High Court has written the foreword.

The booklet is in three parts.
1. Part one provides the evidence of the legal consequences of unclear communication in three court cases in Ireland.
2. Part two describes what plain English is and how it is gaining traction – from public demands for clear consumer contracts to the emphasis on plain language in the Central Bank of Ireland’s Consumer Protection Code.
3. Part three provides guidance on how to write in plain English, words and phrases to avoid, document design tips and other useful resources.

The booklet was launched by the National Adult Literacy Agency and Mason Hayes & Curran at their Plain English Awards in the Law Society of Ireland, Dublin in 2017. The awards were sponsored by MHC and are the second Plain English Awards ceremony to be held in Ireland.

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