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Damages Taking a Beating? - February 2021

In the recent Court of Appeal case, Leidig v. O’Neill [2020] IECA 296, damages for a fractured wrist were significantly reduced. This is yet another example of a decision exerting downward pressure on personal injuries awards.

In the High Court, the plaintiff claimed that due to his injury he was unable to engage in his pastimes and that he was unable to pursue his chosen career path. Based on the Book of Quantum, the High Court awarded the Plaintiff €70,000 for the wrist injury, €30,000 for pain and suffering into the future, €15,000 for being unable to undertake his hobbies, and €40,000 for being obliged to change career path, amounting to a total award of €155,000.

However, the Court of Appeal decided that damages must be fair and proportionate when examined in the context of the maximum award for general damages in catastrophic cases sitting at of €500,000 (This was decided last year by the Supreme court in the case of Morrissey v. HSE [2020] IESC 6). The Court of Appeal was of the view that the injuries were “moderately severe”, as opposed to the High Court’s view that the injuries were “severe and permanent”. On this basis, the Court of Appeal found that the High Court award was “…excessive to a degree that rendered it disproportionate and an error of law”. General damages were reduced to an “all in” figure of €90,000, resulting in an overall reduction of €65,000.

The Judicial Council has recently proposed new guidelines for assessing personal injury awards. These proposals would reduce the current figures for different injuries as outlined in the Book of Quantam; it would bring Ireland more in line with jurisdictions like England, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

When this case is read in the context of other recent judgments in this area, it seems likely that damages will continue to be reduced.

If you need advice in this area - perhaps your insurer has declined cover for late notification, or you are self-insured - then please give us a call.

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