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Personal Injury Claims

Court of Appeal Slashes High Court Award of €76,000 to €41,000 in Soft Tissue Injury Case

bank of ireland v o'malley

The High Court of Appeal was asked to consider the awarding of €76,000 by the High Court at Dundalk to the injured party in a straightforward soft tissue injury case arising from a road traffic accident. The High Court had awarded €70,000 for the injuries with €6,000 for special damages.

The general damages were broken down into €65,000 for pain and suffering to date and €5,000 for pain into the future. The other party appealed the amount of the award with the injured party cross appealing against the inadequate amount of €5,000 in respect of pain into the future.

The Court of Appeal noted that the case had been conducted with remarkable efficiency by the High Court with the trial lasting about half an hour. The injuries suffered by the injured party involved soft tissue injuries which appeared to have completely resolved within 4 months of the accident.

She was out of work for 6 weeks, got some physiotherapy and took pain killers. At the date of the trial there was no evidence that she would suffer any significant ongoing pain or discomfort.

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal noted that damages are meant to be restitutional-that is, put the injured party back in the position they were in before the accident. It noted that pain and suffering had no monetary value but damages were the only way a court can attempt to redress the wrong suffered by an injured plaintiff, but it cannot be restitutional in the true sense.

Damages must be calculated by a conventional sum-that is, what convention and experience society has held to be fair and just for the injury, but the assessment of damages is not amenable to a scientific calculation.

Accordingly, the starting point in assessing damages for any injury is the Book of Quantum of the Injuries Board but it is only a guide and its value may be limited for a wide variety of reasons.

The Court of Appeal noted the merit and value of consistency in awards in personal injury cases generally and the intended introduction of the personal injuries guidelines under the Judicial Council Act 2019 to replace the Book of Quantum.

The Court went on to look at some comparable cases and referred to Nolan v Wirenski which summarised all the relevant authorities in relation to the award of damages. It also held Payne v Nugent [2015] IECA 268 as a useful starting point and the case of Shannon v O’Sullivan [2016] IECA 93 as helpful.

The Court of Appeal held that the Book of Quantum had a significant role to play in this case as the injuries were reasonably defined in terms of categorisation, severity and duration.

It awarded €30,000 for pain and suffering to date and, agreeing with the High Court assessment on this head, €5,000 for pain and suffering into the future. Special damages were agreed at €6,000 therefore the total awarded was €41,000 which substituted the sum of €76,000 awarded by the High Court.

A €35,000 reduction is noteworthy, to put it mildly, especially when it is 50% of the original award.

Regarding costs he invited the parties to make written submissions on the appropriate form of the order to be made. This could be significant as this case was taken in the High Court but the award ultimately made by the Court of Appeal did not agree it was a High Court case.

Takeaway

This is a useful case to read if you are looking for guidance as to how Courts will/should assess personal injury damages. It refers to some other cases and the circumstances where the Book of Quantum can be useful in deciding what is a “conventional sum” and what society holds to be fair and just in attempting to provide restitution for the injury suffered.

Read the full decision here.(Emma McKeown and Alan Crosby and Mary Vocella [2020] IECA 242, High Court record number: 2018/8764P