Personal Injury Claims – Costs Differential Orders

Author:Ms Mary Purtill and Aisling Breen
Profession:Ronan Daly Jermyn

Prior to the increase in power to award greater damages, the lower monetary levels of the District Court and Circuit Court meant that modest personal injury claims were being taken in the High Court. The consequence of this was that there was a high increase in legal costs for both parties and there was a certain level of an abuse of process and time in the High Court, which in turn caused huge delays and a backlog of cases. This was an issue which the Government wanted to address, so the monetary jurisdictions of the Civil Courts were reviewed and subsequently amended on 3 February 2014.

The monetary jurisdiction of the Courts had remained unchanged since the coming into force of the Courts Act, 1991. The changes were brought about to ensure that the thresholds were broadly in line with inflation. With respect to personal injury actions, the monetary limit of the District Court was increased to €15,000, the monetary limit of the Circuit Court was increased to €60,000 and the High Court monetary limit was unchanged and remains unlimited.

It is clear from recent decisions of the Court of Appeal that matters which are below the High Court monetary threshold are still being dealt with in the High Court, when they clearly should not be. However, a Court can penalise a party who receives an award that does not meet the Court's jurisdictional threshold by awarding the typical costs of a lower Court, if it believes the application should have been sought in that Court. This is illustrated in the following personal injury claims, appealed to the Court of Appeal.

On 24 July 2018, the Court of Appeal decision from Peart J., with Hogan and Baker JJ concurring, delivered judgment in relation to Jibran Moin v Veronica Sicika and John O' Malley v David McEvoy. In both the above cases, the High Court Judge was asked to make differential cost orders and in each case the High Court refused to do so and both cases were appealed.

Both appeals concerned personal injury claims in which the High Court awarded damages which were well below the High Court threshold. In both cases, following the award of damages, Counsel for the Defendants applied for differential costs orders pursuant to Section 17(5) of the Courts Act 1981 (as amended by S.14 of the Courts Act 1991).

Under such provisions, there are two options available to a trial judge who has awarded damages to a plaintiff, which are within the jurisdiction of a Court lower than that in which the case has...

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