Courts Service Annual Report shows the need for urgent reform in the administration of law

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ISME welcomes the publication on 22nd July of the Courts Service Annual Report.

Dublin, 23rd July 2020 High Court awards are increasing. There was a very substantial increase of 76% in the average quantum of awards made by the High Court, from €351,263 to €615,590. However, year on year comparisons in this category are difficult to make, as the High Court includes medical negligence cases where settlements can run to eight figures. 
ISME, the Irish SME Association, has long been of the view that placing the burden of arriving at these astronomical awards is completely unfair on the judiciary, and awards for citizens who have been catastrophically injured should be made by way of periodic payment orders in the majority of cases. 
While the overall number of personal injuries cases was down slightly, following a 10% decline in High Court actions, personal injuries actions in the Circuit Court rose by 6%, and in the District Court by 15%. 
Average awards in the Circuit Court fell slightly by €365, or 2%, to €18,648. However, the number of personal injuries actions decided in the Circuit Court, where the majority of personal injuries litigation takes place, climbed by 12% to 1,390. 
The steady increase in defamation cases continues, with total cases rising by 3% to 308 in 2019. However, the total number reflects a fall in High Court defamation cases, which masked the remarkable 35% increase in Circuit Court defamation cases decided. 
The Small Claims Court, which handles claims up to €2,000, saw a one third increase in new claims to 4,267 from 3,476. This is a highly cost-effective method for citizens and small business to pursue small claims, and ISME encourages its members to avail of the service whenever possible.
Following the release of the Annual Report, ISME CEO, Neil McDonnell said;The data behind the Annual Report make clear that there will be no respite for citizens or businesses in the cost of insurance. Major reform is required in the near future to reduce quantum in minor injury awards; to investigate and prosecute fraud; to amend the duty of care; to enact a perjury statute and punish those who lie for money and to reform our defamation laws. We cannot afford to wait any longer and call on Minister McEntee in the Department of Justice to prioritise these reforms.’

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