Challenge to new guidelines dismissed by High Court 

High level awards were, in recent years, feeding into higher premiums and the government were under pressure to introduce changes.   In March 2021 the Judicial Council, essentially all of the judges, passed the new judicial guidelines under the Judicial Council Act 2019.   These provided for much lower awards in PI cases.

One claimant who had been told her case was worth up to € 34,000, but who was only assessed at €3,000 by PIAB, challenged the new guidelines and related legislation.    She applied to PIAB before the new rules took effect but was assessed under the new regime. The plaintiff complained the 2019 Act interfered with judicial independence and that the guidelines should not be retrospectively applied to her.

Regarding the independence of the Judges, the court held that existing legislation allowed a Court to depart from the guidelines where reasons were given by the Judge, and this did not represent any substantial change to the current system.

As to the plaintiff’s case being undermined by retrospective rules, the Court found the plaintiff had the right to have damages assessed in accordance with the law applicable at the time of assessment but did not have a right to any specific sum contained in the Book of Quantum.     The reduction in awards, which was in keeping with public policy, did not amount to an “unjust attack” on her rights as she had claimed.

The Court concluded that the guidelines were now valid as a matter of law, and it found that PIAB had correctly applied the new guidelines to the claimant’s case.   Her application for judicial review of the new guidelines was therefore refused.

Solicitor’s Reference:

Delaney v the Personal Injuries Assessment Board & others [2022] IEHC 321