Court of Appeal Reduces Damages Award For Not Considering PI Guidelines

COLLINS -V- PARM & ORS | 2022 2006 P

The Court of Appeal has reduced a damages award, finding it “so disproportionate as to amount to an error of law.” Mr. Justice Seamus Noonan criticized the High Court judge for not considering the Personal Injury Guidelines, introduced in 2019 to standardize injury awards.

The High Court judge identified that her dominant injury was psychiatric and that her post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had upended almost every aspect of her life for many months, although the position has improved. He awarded €55,000 general damages for this and an “uplift” of €40,000 for her other injuries. The Defendants, insured by AXA Insurance, admitted partial liability but argued contributory negligence since Collins was not wearing a seatbelt. The High Court Judge found her 15% responsible for her injuries.

The Defendants appealed the High Court award, arguing it was excessive, inadequately explained and a departure from the 2019 Guidelines.

The original award of €99,162 was cut to €59,162 by the Appeal Court, with a further 15% reduction for contributory negligence, resulting in a final award of €50,287 to Courtney Collins. The Appeal Court noted that the Defendants had not referenced the Guidelines or comparative cases themselves.

Solicitor Attendance at Engineering Inspections

Engineering Inspections are invaluable for Litigation Solicitors like us, providing crucial insights into the causes of accidents. Regardless of whether we represent Plaintiffs or Defendants, these inspections offer a deeper understanding of the case at hand.

In litigation, it is common for Claims Handlers representing defendants to attend such inspections, and rightfully so. Their presence allows for a comprehensive analysis of the accident’s dynamics, revealing both its strengths and weaknesses.

We firmly advocate for a collaborative approach during inspections, rejecting the notion that engineers dictate the proceedings. Solicitors play a pivotal role in directing engineers, ensuring a balanced perspective.

Moreover, attending Engineering Inspections greatly facilitates briefing legal counsel. To effectively instruct counsel, Solicitors must grasp the accident’s mechanics and context fully. By participating in inspections, we can convey explanations in a manner accessible to legal professionals, free from technical jargon.

Historically, objections to Solicitors attending inspections were rare. However, recent trends have seen defendants attempting to prevent Solicitor involvement.

A notable case illustrating this was the recent case of Murphy v. Stryker, the defendant initially resisted the presence of a Solicitor during inspection. However, after arguments were presented, Mr. Justice Coffey of the High Court ruled in favour of granting inspection facilities to both the engineer and the Solicitor, recognizing the importance of their roles.

We trust that this decision has effectively resolved the issue, affirming the right for Solicitors to participate in Engineering Inspections.

Towards Enhanced Adult Safeguarding: Proposals for Legislative Reform

The Law Reform Commission has put forth a 1,000-page report today, unveiling a proposed statutory and regulatory framework for adult safeguarding. After thorough examination of current domestic laws and policies, along with a comprehensive review of adult safeguarding frameworks in various jurisdictions, the Commission presents two draft bills: the Adult Safeguarding Bill 2024 and the Criminal Law (Adult Safeguarding) Bill 2024.

Findings reveal that existing statutory bodies have limited capacity to intervene in cases of abuse or neglect involving at-risk adults, as evidenced by notable incidents like those at Leas Cross, Áras Attracta, and in cases involving the ‘Grace’ case, the ‘Brandon’ case, and the ‘Emily’ case over the past two decades.

The Commission suggests imposing safeguarding duties on service providers, requiring them to manage their services to prevent harm to at-risk adults, conduct risk assessments, and draft adult safeguarding statements. Additionally, it advocates for the establishment of a social work-led Adult Safeguarding Body with statutory responsibilities for promoting the health, safety, and welfare of at-risk adults. Furthermore, it proposes expanding the regulatory oversight of existing bodies like HIQA and the Mental Health Commission.

Further recommendations include statutory protection for individuals reporting harm to at-risk adults in good faith, along with mandatory reporting duties for certain occupations and professions. Additionally, the Commission proposes the introduction of four new criminal offenses: intentional or reckless abuse, neglect, or ill-treatment of a relevant person; exposure of a relevant person to risk of serious harm or sexual abuse; coercive control of a relevant person; and coercive exploitation of a relevant person.

In conclusion, the proposed legislative reforms outlined by the Law Reform Commission mark a significant step towards bolstering protections for at-risk adults in our society. By introducing comprehensive safeguarding duties, establishing dedicated oversight bodies, and introducing new criminal offenses, these measures aim to ensure the safety, dignity, and well-being of vulnerable individuals. Implementation of these recommendations promises to instigate a paradigm shift in how we approach adult safeguarding, fostering a culture of accountability, vigilance, and respect for the rights of all members of our community.

Olabode Cole v Fima Developments Ltd and Michael Behan    

Olabode Cole v Fima Developments Ltd and Michael Behan    

The Plaintiff in this case was seeking damages of up to €60,000 arising from a Road Traffic Accident on the 22nd of March 2019, near Heuston Station.  The Defendant’s Insurer, Zurich instructed MDM Solicitors and Frederick Gilligan BL to full defend the matter.

The accident occurred at the traffic lights outside of Heuston Station, directly before the Luas line.  The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant collided with his vehicle, thereby causing him to suffer a soft tissue injury to his lower back.  In addition, the Plaintiff claimed that he now suffered from nervousness, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and a soft tissue injury to his left knee.

The Plaintiff claimed that while stopped at the traffic lights, in the bus lane, that the Defendant attempted to cross into the left lane and drove into the rear of the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  While originally, an independent witness was willing to cooperate with the Plaintiff’s version of events, he did not give evidence at the hearing of the action.

It was the Defendant’s case that the Plaintiff’s vehicle was travelling in the bus lane, and when the traffic lights turned green, the Plaintiff tried to squeeze in front of the Defendant and entered the Defendant’s Lane.  During cross examination the Plaintiff admitted, that he had at the time been driving for 13 months and had failed his driving test on two occasions.

Ultimately, the Honorable Judge Ní Chúlacháin did not find for the Plaintiff and therefore, dismissed the Plaintiff’s case with costs to the Defendant.

Delaney v Personal Injuries Assessment Board

Delaney v Personal Injuries Assessment Board

Supreme Court, 9th April 2024

The Supreme Court has ruled, by a majority of five to two in a landmark challenge, that judge-approved guidelines slashing awards for mainly minor personal injuries have legal effect and are legally binding.

We await the decision of the Supreme Court to be published later today, the following are the key summary points:

  1. The majority of the Supreme Court consider that the guidelines have legal effect. The Personal Injury Guidelines are legally binding.
  2. Three Supreme Court members define standards that guidelines can only be departed from where unreasonable.
  3. The majority of the Supreme Court conclude that s.7(2)g of JC Act is unconstitutional in its present form as being contrary to independence of the judiciary.
  4. The majority of the Supreme Court of the court consider that the guidelines were subsequently independently ratified by Oireachtas by family leave act 2021 thus the Pi guidelines passed on 6 March are in force as a matter of law and have thereby been given legal effect.
  5. The majority of the Supreme Court find that the transitory provisions of 2021 Act are not unconstitutional and that there were no vested property or personal rights vindicated under any other earlier guidelines than those passed by Judicial Council.

Supreme Court Orders:

  • A declaration that s7(2)g is unconstitutional in current form.
  • A declaration that the guidelines on 6 March 21 were given force of law by family act 2021 and are consequently in force.
  • ⁠A declaration that PIAB acted properly and in accordance with law by applying guidelines in May 2021
  • An order that save for declaration of unconstitutionality the appeal is to be dismissed and order of costs made
  • Presumptively given these orders that the appellant’s costs to be made against Ireland and the AG

We await the published decision later today to provide a comprehensive review.