Judicial Council adjourns discussion on personal injury awards until March

Alliance for Insurance Reform expresses concern about what draft report may be advocating

Unpublished report on the matter was drafted by a seven-judge committee of the council chaired by president of the High Court, Mary Irvine (pictured). File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

Unpublished report on the matter was drafted by a seven-judge committee of the council chaired by president of the High Court, Mary Irvine (pictured). File photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

 

A remote meeting of the State’s judiciary on Saturday to discuss a proposed new regime for personal injury awards has been adjourned to allow time for greater consideration.

The meeting of the Judicial Council, which comprises the State’s more than 160 judges, convened at 10am but was adjouned shortly thereafter and will resume its deliberations of a draft report on personal injury awards on March 6th next.

The unpublished report was drafted by a seven-judge committee of the council chaired by the president of the High Court, Mary Irvine, and would, if adopted, lead to a significant reduction in some types of personal injury awards, most particularly in the case of minor soft tissue type injuries.

Earlier this week, The Irish Times reported that, following an earlier meeting of the council on February 5th, held to discuss the draft report, a number of senior judges circulated memos to their colleagues in which they variously criticised aspects of the new report, raised legal questions about the role being played by the council, and argued that some types of award were being reduced by too great an amount. As yet, no response to the negative assessments has been circulated.

“The draft personal injuries guidelines, which had been unanimously agreed by members of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee, were before the Judicial council meeting today,” the council said in a statement issued soon after 11.30am on Saturday.

“Further consideration of the draft guidelines will take place at a meeting of the council on Saturday, March 6th, 2021. In circumstances where this is an ongoing process, no further comment will be made in the meantime.”

The Government, business interests, the voluntary sector, and other sectors of society that take out public liability insurance, have all expressed alarm over recent years about the rising cost of premiums, with some saying that the cost is undermining the viability of their activities.

A reduction in the size of certain types of award is among the measures that the Government and others are hoping will lead to a reduction in premiums.

Peter Boland, director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform, which represents charities, voluntary and community groups, sports and cultural organisations, and small and medium sized businesses affected by insurance costs, has expressed concern about what the draft report may be advocating, based on reports in the media.

“We call on the Judicial Council, in their deliberations, to have regard to the common good in reducing general damages for fully recovered minor injuries by at least 80 per cent to reflect international norms and norms already established by the Court of Appeal,” he has said.

A number of judgments made at Court of Appeal level in recent years have had an effect of reducing the size of awards being made at High Court level, but there is a view that the impact of these rulings has not filtered down to Circuit and District court levels, where smaller awards are made.

Ms Justice Irvine was involved in some of the landmark judgments, prior to her being selected by the Government for appointment to the Supreme Court in 2019, and to the position of president of the High Court last year.

The president of the High Court is the third highest position in the judiciary, after the Chief Justice and the president of the Court of Appeal.