The High Court has dismissed the challenge of a Co Waterford woman to the constitutionality of new guidelines reducing damages for minor personal injuries.
The woman from Dungarvan in Co. Waterford claimed the appropriate award for her injury was between €18,000 and €34,000. She was awarded €3,000 last year. She claimed she fractured her ankle after she tripped and fell on a footpath in April 2019 alleging negligence on the part of Waterford City Council. An application was made to PIAB for assessment of her injury, as required by law, in June 2019.
However, in March 2021, the Judicial Council passed the new Personal Injury Guidelines pursuant to the provisions of the Judicial Council Act 2019. All judges at the time voted on the Guidelines which passed by an 83-63 margin. The Guidelines generally provided for significant reductions in compensation for minor and moderate injuries in personal injury cases.
The applicant challenged the decision in judicial review proceedings. The proceedings included constitutional challenges to the validity of the Guidelines adopted by the Judicial Council. It was submitted, inter alia, that the 2019 Act was an impermissible delegation of legislative power to the Council because it failed to set out proper principles and policies for drawing up the Guidelines. It was also said that the legislation interfered with judicial independence and that the Guidelines were impermissibly retrospective in nature.
The applicant also submitted that the Council and the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee wrongly proceeded on the basis that the purpose of the Guidelines was to reduce the level of damages.
Finally, the applicant argued that PIAB ought to have assessed her case based on the Book of Quantum since her application for assessment was made in June 2019.
Mr Justice Charles Meenan rejected all grounds of the challenge including claims that the new guidelines were unconstitutional and amounted to encroachment on judicial independence. The judgement has major implications for the assessment of personal injury claims.
Many similar challenges against the guidelines have also been brought, and those actions had been awaiting the outcome of the test case.
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