Test challenge to personal injuries award guidelines to be heard by Supreme Court

A three-judge panel said the appeal raised issues relating to the constitutional structure of the State

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal against the High Court’s dismissal of a test challenge aimed at setting aside guidelines regarding personal injuries awards.

The court agreed to hear a “leapfrog” appeal direct from the High Court in an action brought by Bridget Delaney, from Dungarvan in Co Waterford.

A panel comprising Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan and Mr Justice Brian Murray agreed that important issues of general importance were raised that necessitate the Supreme Court hearing the appeal.

The Supreme Court panel was satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist warranting the appeal bypassing the Court of Appeal.


The appeal, the panel found, raises questions of significant relevance to the interpretation and construction of delegated legislation regarding the implications of the constitutional mandate of judicial independence and the separation of powers between judges and the Oireachtas.

The panel added that because the issues raised are of importance to the constitutional structure of the State, it was appropriate that the appeal be sufficiently broad to ensure that a comprehensive analysis is possible.

The appeal is against a judgment delivered last June in which Mr Justice Charles Meenan rejected all grounds of the challenge including claims that the 2021 guidelines, which have seen awards reduced by up to 40 per cent, were unconstitutional and amounted to an encroachment on judicial independence.

The action, which was one of many similar cases, has major implications for the assessment of personal injuries claims.

It is taken against the State, and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and is aimed at setting aside guidelines regarding awards for personal injuries claims introduced.

Ms Delaney’s case focuses on a vote taken in March 2021 by the Judicial Council, the body made up of all the State’s judges, to adopt the new guidelines.

PIAB and the State reject her claims.

The guidelines were drawn up by a committee of the Judicial Council, before being approved following a ballot of all the State’s judges.

In her action, Ms Delaney seeks orders quashing PIAB’s assessment PIAB of her claim and the Judicial Council’s decision to adopt the new guidelines.

Mr Justice Meenan rejected all of Ms Delaney’s claims, including that her rights had been breached. He also found that PIAB had acted in accordance with the relevant provisions of the 2003 PIAB Act when it assessed her personal injuries claim.

He said Ms Delaney’s constitutional rights of property and bodily integrity and equality “did not encompass a right to a particular sum of damages, but rather a right to have her damages assessed in accordance with well-established legal principals”.

The judge added that there are clear and well-established principles for the awarding of general damages.

These principles provided that the level of damages is not only a matter between a plaintiff and a defendant but also for society in general.

He said the independence of the judiciary, along with the expertise and experience in the awarding of damages meant the country’s judges were an appropriate body to draft and adopt the guidelines.

The 2019 Act, he said, made specific provisions to preserve judicial independence.

Arising out of Mr Justice Meenan’s decision, lawyers for Ms Delaney sought to have their appeal go directly before the Supreme Court.