Carlow Nationalist — Only urgent personal injury cases can go ahead during lockdown

Ann O’Loughlin

Personal injury attorneys have been told that only urgent measures can be heard in the High Court during the third Covid lockdown.

Personal Injury List Judge, Justice Kevin Cross, told the four courts today that urgent cases from lawyers are not necessarily limited to those involving litigants with life-threatening problems, but can include personal and economic difficulties.

The courts, Justice Cross said, said they are “open” during the Level 5 lockdown, but attorneys will need to demonstrate that the court’s personal injury action is urgent before they can be admitted to the hearing.

If a case does not meet the urgency criteria, Justice Cross said it would not get a hearing and, while viewing the personal injury list remotely, stated that actions considered urgent do not include cases where the parties are anxious to proceed.

Apply in advance

Lawyers now also need to file a prior application to the court to assess whether a case is urgent and needs an early appointment for the hearing. For the remainder of January, nearly fifty cases are already listed in the busy High Court, and sixteen of those have been specially designated, meaning they usually take precedence when assigning cases to a judge.

The decision to prioritize urgent cases was made on the instructions of Supreme Court Justice Ms. Judge Mary Irvine that routine personal injury cases will not be heard until further notice. Cases will continue to be listed and long distance calls will be made three times a day in the expectation that the vast majority of cases will be resolved after negotiation between the parties.

Any routine personal injury that remains on the list and is not settled will be placed on the general list instead of moving to the next day as usual.

CervicalCheck cases

During the initial lockdown, the backlog of unheard personal injury was 300, but the court reduced that significantly with additional sessions in September. Cases listed this month include cases related to the CervicalCheck controversy, including that of the 32-year-old mother of two Lynsey Bennett, who is critically ill with cancer.

Ms. Bennett commenced a lawsuit in the High Court last April for alleged misinterpretation of her cervical smears taken as part of the national screening program.
Mrs. Bennett will have her case heard next week. It is not yet clear whether a full remote hearing of the case will be set up or whether a physical hearing will be set up where the parties adhere to Covid 19 social distancing regulations.

Four legal teams are involved in the case. Lynsey Bennett, Ennybegs, Killoe and Co Longford have sued HSE, the Irish testing laboratory, Eurofins Biomnis Ireland Ltd., Sandyford Industrial Estate, Dublin and the US laboratory Quest Diagnostics Incorporated, New Jersey.

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