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Concern Over Commentary From Justice Cross.

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– ISME voices concern over public comments by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.
– Damages awards are rising, not falling as Justice Cross alleged.
– General damages have increased in the District Court by an average 4.5% per annum since 2015, and by 5% per annum in the Circuit Court since 2015.
– Justice Cross’s remarks depart significantly from the findings of the PIC.
– Justice Cross appears blissfully unaware of issues uncontradicted by his colleagues on the bench, in the Law Society and in the Bar Council.
– It is paradoxical that awards to those with life altering injuries are so small, while our legal system persistently defends massive payouts to those with no medical illness.

ISME notes with concern comments made by Mr Justice Kevin Cross reported in the Sunday Business Post, which imply that high insurance costs are solely a function of an insurance industry that is ‘fundamentally dishonest.’

ISME knows that significant issues must be addressed by insurers, and we have asked the EU Competition Commissioner to expand its investigation of the insurance industry here into the areas of public and employer liability.

However, there remains an issue with the basic accuracy of Justice Cross’s remarks.

He is reported in the Business Post as telling delegates at an event in UCD recently that the level of general damages had ‘decreased in real money terms over the years contrary to the sustained propaganda.’

In fact, damages have increased in the District Court by an average 4.5% per annum since 2015, and by 5% per annum in the Circuit Court since 2015.

Average High Court damages dropped from €457,854 to €351,263 between 2017 and 2018, but these are hard to draw broad conclusions from, as they include large medical negligence awards. It is in the District and Circuit courts that the damage is being done to Irish society and business.

These figures come from the Courts service annual reports, not from the insurance industry.

Ironically, despite the generosity of the Irish personal injuries system, the maximum standard award for ‘catastrophic injuries’ in Ireland is €450,000, which is quite low by international standards, considering these are genuinely life-altering injuries.

Justice Cross’s remarks depart significantly from the findings of the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC), which noted that awards levels for minor injuries were significantly greater than those in the nearest jurisdiction in the UK. The UK itself is unusually generous in its awards for minor injuries.

Mr Justice Cross stated that in his years on the bench, he found fraudulent claims to be a rarity. This also contrasts with the PIC report, which stated ‘PIC is aware of increased sophistication in the bringing of such claims [fraudulent and exaggerated] by both individuals and groups, some of whom are drawn to this jurisdiction by the high rewards on offer.’ Justice Cross appears blissfully unaware of issues uncontradicted by his colleagues on the bench, in the Law Society and in the Bar Council.

As we enter a period where the Judicial Council will consider revisions to general damages, Justice Cross’s remarks raise a number of issues of real concern for us:

Does Justice Cross accept the PIC’s recommendation that general damages award levels need to be revised, or is he happy with them as they stand?
Does Justice Cross intend to sit on the Judicial Council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee?
In the event that the Judicial Council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee recommends a decrease in general damages, will Justice Cross agree to be bound by those recommendations?
Does the President of the High Court Mr Justice Peter Kelly consider it appropriate that Justice Cross continues to preside over the personal injuries list in the High Court when he expresses factually inaccurate, biased and partial views such as this?

It is ironic in a country which is so miserly in its awards to those with life altering, life shortening, or life ending injuries, we have a legal system which persistently defends massive payouts to those who have little or nothing wrong with them. The latter, of course, exist in large numbers, and so maintain the legal gravy train. The former, although much more deserving, do not.