High Court starts tackling backlog of 300 personal injury cases
The number of legal teams who can attend at hearing is limited under Covid-19 measures
A practice direction was issued by the President of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, in advance of the personal injury cases being listed.
Personal injury actions have resumed at the High Court after a four month absence due to Covid-19.
The backlog in unheard personal injury cases since mid-March is believed to be about 300. There have been a number of settlements of cases in the interim.
There were four personal injury cases listed for Tuesday of which three were settled during a remote callover conducted by the head of the personal injuries list, Mr Justice Kevin Cross.
Another action which had been assigned to a judge settled after talks.
As part of Covid-19 related measures and because of the size of courtrooms, the number of legal teams who can attend if a case goes to hearing is limited.
Two party actions involving a maximum of two legal teams can proceed but actions involving multi-party involvement can only get a hearing if they are represented by one legal team on each side.
The call over of cases is done remotely to avoid a large number of people congregating in court at any one time.
Lawyers have also been told that consultations and negotiations which would normally happen in the corridors outside court should take place away from the Four Courts building.
A practice direction was previously issued by the President of the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, in advance of the personal injury cases being listed. It stated those attending court must comply with current public health advice, particularly concerning frequent handwashing, respiratory etiquette and physical distancing.
Each courtroom, the direction stated, has been assessed for capacity and the specified number of people can never be exceeded while others concerned with a case at hearing must wait beyond the precincts of the courthouse until required.
It said face coverings are not mandatory but it is advised they should be worn except in relation to those who for medical reasons cannot wear a covering, or are giving evidence, questioning a witness or addressing the court.
To reduce the duration of cases, parties were urged “to use their best endeavours” to agree medical and other expert reports. If reports cannot be agreed, parties must advise the court as to the issues upon which agreement has been reached and those which remain to be resolved.
For tracking and tracing purposes, solicitors for each party have been asked to supply the court registrar with the names and addresses of those attending court but that information will be destroyed 14 days after the proceedings.