Personal injury actions have resumed at the High Court after a four month absence due to Covid-19.
The move comes as the backlog in unheard personal injury cases since mid-March is believed to be 300.
But the court has limited the number of legal teams who can be present if a case now goes to hearing. Two party actions involving a maximum of two legal teams can go ahead and those 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 now also 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 have happened in the corridors outside court now have to take place away from the Four Courts building.
A practice direction was issued by the President of the High Court Justice Mary Irvine in advance of the personal injury cases being listed.
There were four cases on the list today but three it was announced had been settled during a remote call over conducted by the head of the personal injuries list Mr Justice Kevin Cross.
Another action which was set to go ahead and assigned to a judge and a court settled after talks took place between the sides.
In the practice direction, High Court President Ms Justice Irvine said it was to enable personal injury actions to proceed in a manner which complies with public health guidance and to protect the safety of court users during Covid-19 restrictions.
All those attending court where personal injury actions are to be heard must it said comply with current public health advice and in particular engage with frequent hand-washing and comply with respiratory etiquette. While on court premises, all persons it said shall remain physically distanced and anyone with Covid 19 symptoms should not attend a court house and should seek health care advice.
Each courtroom it said has been assessed for capacity and that number of people can never be exceeded and others concerned with a case at hearing must wait beyond the precincts of the courthouse until required.
Face masks it said are not mandatory but it is advised that all those except those who for medical reasons cannot wear a covering, should wear a mask unless giving evidence , questioning a witness or addressing the court.
No negotiations or consultation may take place at or in the courthouse and it said they must be at a different venue and preferably in the weeks or days in advance of the scheduled hearing.
To reduce the duration of the case parties have also been told “to use their best endeavours” to agree medical and other expert reports . If reports cannot be agreed it said the parties must be in a position to advise the court as to the issues upon which agreement has been reached and those which remain to be resolved.
Once a case is over, everyone, it said must leave the building promptly. For track and trace purposes, the solicitor for each party has been asked to supply the court registrar with the names and addresses of those attending court. The list will be destroyed 14 days after the proceedings.