A judge will rule on Thursday on the lead case challenging the constitutionality of the law under which judges drafted and approved new guidelines slashing awards for minor personal injuries by up to 50 per cent.
The outcome of the case against the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, the Judicial Council and the State has potentially huge implications for claimants, lawyers, insurers and the State.
Brought by Bridget Delaney, from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, it is the lead of several cases over the guidelines the introduction of which was approved by an 83/63 majority of judges in March 2021.
The guidelines came into effect from April 24th 2021 and apply to claims authorised by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board after that. Earlier cases are assessed under the Book of Quantum (BOQ), which provided for higher awards.
Ms Delaney’s challenge was heard over several days by Mr Justice Charles Meenan before concluding in early April. He will give his judgment on Thursday.
Among various claims by Feichin McDonagh SC, for Ms Delaney, it was argued the Act is unconstitutional for reasons including legislative power is impermissibly delegated to the Judicial Council without setting sufficient principles and policies concerning the guidelines.
Ms Delaney claimed she suffered an undisplaced ankle fracture after she tripped and fell at a public footpath at Pinewood Estate, Dungarvan, on April 12th, 2019. She claimed she required medical treatment, physiotherapy and was in a walker boot for four weeks as a result of alleged negligence of Waterford City Council.
She disputed PIAB’s assessment of €3,000 general damages under the guidelines and argued her claim should have been assessed at between €18,000-€34,000 under the Book of Quantum.
PIAB, she claimed, acted unlawfully in processing her application under the guidelines.
The claim against the Judicial Council included that its personal injuries guidelines committee erred in considering one of its functions was to reduce damages.
In her case against the State, Ms Delaney claimed the Act is unconstitutional for reasons including it involves an impermissible invasion by the legislature of judicial power. Other claims included that the reduced value of her claim under the guidelines is an unconstitutional and disproportionate attack on her rights to bodily integrity, property and an effective remedy for breach of rights.
The respondents rejected the claims.