State to pay 60% of woman’s legal costs in failed challenge to personal injury guidelines

Barrister's Wig

23 July 2022

The State has been ordered to pay 60 per cent of the substantial legal costs of a woman’s failed challenge to the constitutionality of the law under which new guidelines slashing awards for minor personal injuries came into effect.

Legal sources are speculating the costs of Bridget Delaney’s High Court challenge will be somewhere between €500,000 and €1 million for reasons including it was a lead case, the complexity of the issues raised and because three senior counsel represented Ms Delaney.

Mr Justice Charles Meenan had last month dismissed the challenge by Ms Delaney, from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, on all grounds.

In a costs ruling on Friday, the judge said he was satisfied the proceedings were brought in the public interest, were of general public importance and raised novel issues concerning the application of principles on delegated legislation to the Judicial Council Act 2019.

On those and other grounds, he ruled Ms Delaney was entitled to 60 per cent of her legal costs against Ireland and the Attorney General, noting she had not sought costs against the Judicial Council and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

The State parties had argued they should not have to pay Ms Delaney’s costs. Their fallback position was that she was only entitled to recover a portion of those costs against them.

The judge further ruled Ms Delaney was entitled to recover 60 per cent of the costs of her failed application to have the judge recuse himself from hearing the case arising from his being a member of the Judicial Council at the time the guidelines were voted on.

Noting Ms Delaney wanted the court to certify costs for the three senior counsel who appeared for her, the judge directed that issue would be decided by a costs adjudicator at a later stage if it was not agreed between the sides.

Ms Delaney’s case has been closely watched because of the potentially huge implications. It is expected the High Court judgment will be appealed and several other cases over the guidelines remain on hold pending that appeal.

The guidelines, drafted by a committee of the Judicial Council and approved by an 83/63 majority of judges in March 2021, came into effect from April 24th 2021. They apply to claims authorised by the PIAB after that date. Earlier cases will be assessed under the Book of Quantum which provided for higher awards.

Ms Delaney claimed she suffered an undisplaced ankle fracture after she tripped and fell at a public footpath at Pinewood Estate, Dungarvan, on April 12th, 2019. She claimed she required medical treatment, physiotherapy and was in a walker boot for four weeks as a result of alleged negligence of Waterford City Council.

She disputed PIAB’s assessment of €3,000 general damages under the guidelines and argued her claim should have been assessed at between €18,000-€34,000 under the Book of Quantum. Her claims against the Judicial Council included its personal injuries guidelines committee (PIGC) erred in considering one of its functions was to reduce damages.

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