Retiring judge fears personal injury case changes benefit those ‘with deep pockets’

Mr Justice Cross

21 November 2021

A senior judge retiring after a decade handling the personal injuries list has said he fears recent and proposed changes in practice will have the effect of changing the system designed to get a case to the door of a court quickly with “a war of attrition” type scenario.

And Mr Justice Kevin Cross warned the only winners in such a scenario are “battalions with deep pockets”. The judge, who was speaking from the bench as tributes were made on his retirement, said the practice of having pre-trial motions, motions for discovery and written submissions can be very good in cases where everyone has deep pockets. But he said they can have serious negative effects in ordinary cases.

Mr Justice Cross who presided over the Ruth Morrissey and other cervical cancer cases referred to a case involving a woman whose action included aspects of law, liability, causation and quantum within weeks of first going to a solicitor was in court. He said she succeeded to get her case on because of her courage and determination and that of her legal team and also because of the cooperation of the defendant legal teams in a system of trust.

The scales of justice, he said, must be continually rebalanced and adapted in order to ensure they are back in equilibrium as left to their own accord the scales of justice will invariably “tip in favour of the vested interests and big battalions”. 

The judge, who was first called to the Bar in 1975, in his retirement speech paid tribute to his courts registrar Margaret Mulligan and his tipstaff Martin McCarthy who had helped keep the personal injuries list running smoothly during the pandemic.

Tributes to Mr Justice Cross were, due to Covid restrictions, heard by selected representatives of various legal bodies, judges and the judge’s family and was broadcast via Zoom also.

Attorney General Paul Gallagher said Judge Cross will be long remembered for his judgement in the Ruth Morrissey cervical cancer case and the Russell case which deals with the real rate of return. He said the judge had always displayed kindness, humanity and equity and he treated all those before him with compassion.

He said the judge on retirement intends to do a PhD on Irish lawyer and statesman John Philpot Curran. Tributes were also given in Court one of the Four Courts by the Bar Council and Law Society.

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