The President of the High Court Justice Mary Irvine has urged parties in personal injuries cases to negotiate with each other in the same way as they would have if their cases had been listed for hearing.
Her statement this morning (26 June) was mainly aimed at those involved in the 320 personal injury claims have been postponed since 18 March due to COVID-19.
Personal injury cases present particular challenges due to the involvement of a number of witnesses.
The High Court President said this challenge was unlikely to be entirely overcome in the short term, though it is hoped to restart some level of personal injuries litigation in the coming weeks.
Justice Irvine cited figures which show that around 97% of all personal injury claims are settled.
Of those that come to court, 89% settle with only 11% proceeding to a contested hearing.
“Regrettably, however, a substantial number of claims only settle on the day they are listed for hearing,” she said.
“In practical terms this means that if cases cannot be listed for hearing (as is currently the case because of COVID-19), they will neither be fought nor settled but will remain in limbo.”
The President is now asking that parties involved in personal injury cases negotiate with each other in the immediate future “with a view to bringing about the result that would have been achieved if those cases could have been listed for hearing”.
She added that, for reasons of health and safety, those negotiations should not take place at the Four Courts.
Justice Irvine stressed, however, that she was not asking any defendant to settle a claim in respect of which they consider they have no liability or where they consider the sum claimed to be excessive or even possibly fraudulent.
“Obviously, defendants must contest rather than settle such claims. Neither am I asking any defendant, who would in the normal course of events have settled a particular claim, to pay anything more than they would have paid to settle the claim on the date it was due to be heard,” she added.
“All I am asking is that the parties do what they would have done over the past three months and over the next five weeks, had the court been able to list these claims for hearing in the normal way.”
The High Court President said she hoped to be in a position to announce some resumption of personal injury claims “within the next week”, subject to health and safety considerations.