Leading litigation lawyer in warning over Book of Quantum revision

Sinead Carroll
Sinead Carroll

This week, we reported that Jobs Minister Richard Bruton had met with leading members of the judiciary to win support for a revised Book of Quantum.

Sinead Carroll, partner in the litigation department of Cantillons Solicitors in Cork, responds to the news.

The call by Richard Bruton, published in the Irish Legal News on the 4th April 2016, for a revision of the Book of Quantum is welcome. Indeed, when the Book was introduced, there were assurances by Government that the Book would be kept updated to reflect the awards of Courts. The Book itself sets out that the content will be kept under review.

As noted by Mr. Justice Barton in McGarry –v- McGarry (Unreported 6/5/15): “Indeed, when the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Bill was proceeding through the Oireachtas it is a matter of public record that the Minister responsible assured both houses that the Book of Quantum would be updated and would reflect the awards of the courts. Regrettably and notwithstanding such assurances, the Book has not been updated since it was first published in 2004. However, the court is still left with the statutory requirement to refer to the Book when assessing damages in respect of any injuries where a range of damages is specified. This is an unacceptable state of affairs and is to be deprecated”

Whereas commentators, including this author, welcome the revision, however, it is hoped that the figures will be revised realistically. Commentators, including members of the Judiciary, have observed that the Book of Quantum, even when published, was inaccurate, and did not reflect (as it was supposed to) the current level of awards, as they then were, in respect of some injuries. It is now disturbing to note that the Minister is seeking for a revision downwards.

The Minister suggests his motivation is a desire to ensure that insurance premia are reduced for motorists. That is an admirable objective. However, one questions whether or not it should be on the back of victims of negligence. Surely the focus might be more appropriately placed by the Minister on the profits made by Insurance Companies, and seeing whether or not, if these profits were reduced, the premia that the hard pressed motorists pay might be reduced. Focus might also be had by the Minister on the causes of serious accidents, and whether or not steps might be taken by the Minister, and his colleagues, to reduce such causes. It is an easy target to seek to penalise victims, as they have not a coherent representative lobby. Persons who go undercompensated also have votes. Further, some people have an innate sense of fairness, and in particular take the view that victims who suffer Catastrophic injuries should be adequately compensated.

It is disheartening to see that the Minister has not commented upon the observations made by the head of the Injuries Board who has questioned the necessity for insurance premia to be raised. The figures presented by the Insurance Industry, do not stand up to scrutiny in that regard.

Finally, I query the appropriateness of a State Minister lobbying the Judiciary at all, particular when it is the State which is often a Defendant in a number of these cases, where the issue is indeed quantum.

  • Sinead Carroll is a partner in the litigation department at Cantillons Solicitors. You can view her profile here.