New guidelines aimed at reducing damages 'do not change the law'

New guidelines aimed at reducing damages 'do not change the law'

Judges are still required to assess damages that are 'fair and reasonable' in individual cases, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said. File picture: iStock

The High Court judge who manages personal injuries litigation has stressed that new guidelines aimed at reducing damages, especially for minor injuries, “do not change the law”.

Judges are still required to assess damages that are “fair and reasonable” in individual cases, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said.

The judge also noted on Thursday that there is a “great lacuna” in the court’s personal injuries list for the rest of this law term, to May 20.

The judge, who manages the court's personal injuries list and the daily call-over of cases via video conference, told lawyers there were very few cases listed before the court for hearing or settlement up to May 20.

If any lawyers wished to set down a case for a virtual hearing, or settlement, that would be welcome as the lack of cases meant he was currently “underemployed”, he said.

Remote hearing

Any cases listed for the next court term, beginning on June 2, will proceed via remote hearing, if required, or via physical hearing, if required, he added.

Thursday's personal injuries list featured six cases. The first case was fixed for hearing on June 30. Of the remaining five cases, all listed for mention, the judge was told two had settled and he made various orders in those. The remaining three were adjourned.

A small number of other matters which were not listed were mentioned, including a case which James Nerney BL said could be impacted by the new personal injuries guidelines.

Because of Brexit, counsel said he is now required to apply to serve papers on a UK-based defendant outside the jurisdiction and wanted liberty in that regard.

Granting liberty to do so, the judge said the new guidelines “do not change the law”.

Fair and reasonable

Judges are still required to assess damages that are fair and reasonable, he said. If a judge believes it is necessary to depart from the guidelines to do so, all that judge needs to do is give their reasons for doing so, he said.

The guidelines, drafted by the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council, comprising all the State’s judges, were approved by a majority of the council last month and come into effect from April 24. 

They replace the Book of Quantum and will be used by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and the courts to assess damages. 

The guidelines have reduced the amounts which can be awarded for many categories of injury, particularly minor injuries and state that any judge departing from the recommended brackets of awards must give specified written reasons for doing so.

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