RECENT TRENDS IN THE AWARDS FOR DAMAGES

 

RECENT TRENDS IN THE AWARDS FOR DAMAGES

 

A recent trend has emerged in Personal Injuries practice whereby High Court awards made with reference to the Book Of Quantum are subsequently appealed to the Court of Appeal resulting in a dramatic reduction in damages. The book of quantum is a guideline to which both the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and the Irish Courts are required to have regard when assessing damages in respect of Personal Injuries actions.

 

The book provides a general guideline as to the level of compensation which someone may be awarded for an injury suffered by an Applicant. The book also gives reference to the severity of the injury, any complicating factors such as the requirement for surgery, and the longevity of the injury.

 

In the recent case of Leidig v O’Neill (2020) the High Court Judge referred to the Book of Quantum when assessing the damages and found that the Plaintiff’s injury fell within the severe and permanent condition category, at the top end of the scale. The Plaintiff in this action was injured when his motor bike was struck by another vehicle and the Plaintiff was caused to fracture the scaphoid bone in his wrist and required surgery when the fracture failed to heal conservatively. The surgery comprised of fixation of the wrist using a screw and the wrist being confined to a cast for eight weeks following surgery.

 

At the trial of the matter the experts for both sides agreed that the Plaintiff suffered an operational scar of approximately five centimetres which was well healed and non-tender and that the Plaintiff had likely suffered a loss of approximately five percent of the function of his hand. The High Court awarded €70,000 for pain and suffering to date. €40,000 for loss of job opportunity, €15,000 for loss of hobby and €30,000 for pain and suffering into the future giving a total award of €155,000 in general damages.

 

The award was appealed by the Defendant to the Court of Appeal who granted the appeal on the basis that the method applied for the calculation of general damages amounted to an error of law. It is the Court of Appeal’s position that any award of damages must be proportionate both in relation to the cap for general damages (the most that anybody can receive for the most serious of injuries) which was found in Morrissey v HSE (2020) to be increased to €500,000 and recent awards by the Court for injuries of a comparable nature.

 

The Court of Appeal also ruled that if the Book of Quantum is relevant to the injury in question the Court is required to have regard not only to the provisions within the book regarding the sum for damages but also in terms of the guides appropriate to the seriousness of the injury.

 

In this matter, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the High Court finding that the Plaintiff’s injury was not a severe and permanent condition and it specifically referred to the examples within the book of quantum of the category severe and permanent condition to include incomplete union of bones which led to a requirement for bone fusion.

 

The Court of Appeal took the view that although the recovery for the Plaintiff’s wrist was protracted, he ultimately achieved a good outcome without the need of any further or serious intervention. The Court also made note that the injury was to the Plaintiff’s non-dominant hand and did not believe that on any realistic assessment the injury could be categorised as a severe and permanent condition.

 

The Court of Appeal also disagreed with the manner in which the High Court applied the facts of the case with regard to the Book of Quantum. The Court of Appeal ruled that the figures within the Book of Quantum encompass the entirety of the ranges of general damages which can apply to a Plaintiff. Therefore the maximum amounts under each category encompasses damages for past, present and future pain together with any loss of enjoyment, loss of hobby and loss of opportunity.

 

Ultimately, the Court of Appeal ruled that the injury was more properly within the moderately severe category and, as a result, damages were reduced in their totality to a sum of €65,000.

 

The decision of the Court of Appeal in this matter highlights the needed for a Court to not only have regard to the Book of Quantum in assessing figures for damages but also apply the guide of the categories of injury in a very specific way.

 

This decision does bring clarity in relation to the manner in which the Courts should apply the Book of Quantum and it also highlights the current trend of the Court of Appeal’s reducing generous awards made by the High Court to that which the Court of Appeal believes is reasonable and justifiable in the context of both injuries of a similar nature which have recently been awarded by the Court and with regard to the cap for general damages.

 

Recently, the Irish Judiciary voted in favour of guidelines prepared by the Council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee.  Once legislation has been amended the new Guidelines will replace the Book of Quantum which has not been updated since 2016.  A separate article in relation to what changes these Guidelines will mean to personal injuries matters will publish shortly.

 

If you require advice on any personal injury matter or any other issues involving a dispute please contact Donna Phelan or Conor White on 01 2960666