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Busiest year yet for legal-costs adjudicator
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29 Jul 2022 / courts Print

Busiest year yet for legal-costs adjudicator

The Office of the Legal Costs Adjudicators (OLCA) received a record 874 applications last year, according to its annual report.

This represented a 5% increase from 830 cases in 2020, which was the body’s first full year of operation. The monetary value of new applications was just over €110 million – down slightly from 2020.

OLCA also determined 226 cases during the year – more than twice the 2020 figure.

According to the Courts Service, data up to the end of June this year suggest that the figure for determinations will be exceeded in 2022.

Waiting times reduced

The average waiting time from application to initial hearing date is currently six weeks, compared with 11 weeks at the end of 2020.

The OLCA was set up under the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, with the aim of modernising the system of determining legal costs, and making the process more transparent.

Of the cases dealt with in 2021, 53% were settled between the parties, and 18% were determined and concluded. Almost 30% were adjourned pending hearings, or were subject to further hearing, mediation, or negotiation.

One-third of costs disallowed

The report’s figures show that, in cases that the OLCA determined, 34% of costs were disallowed – roughly in line with the 2020 figure. The figure rose to 45%, however, for the 13 medical-negligence cases completed.

The office pointed out, however, that this did not suggest that 34% of all the costs claimed were unreasonable.

Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator Paul Behan said that the office continued its work despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 restrictions, using online technologies where practicable and holding oral hearings where permissible.

Road-traffic cases top list

During the year, significant work was undertaken on developing an e-filing platform for initiating applications for costs adjudication.

The first phase of the project was delivered through the Courts Service Online (CSOL) platform, and a number of changes were made to improve the search function, after engagement with interested parties.

According to the annual report, 842 of the new applications made last year were filed electronically.

The category with the highest number of applications was road-traffic accidents (174), but the highest amount claimed (€27.7 million) related to medical-negligence cases.

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