Tuesday 15 October 2019

Government accused of 'blatant abdication' on awards cap reform

Neil McDonnell, ISME
Neil McDonnell, ISME

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

BUSINESS lobby group Isme has accused the Government of "blatant abdication" of its responsibilities to reform personal injuries award levels.

It questioned why the Government has asked the Law Reform Commission (LRC) to look at the constitutionality of capping personal injuries awards and said this will just delay reform to award levels.

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Isme said the Government should introduce legislation instead of waiting for another report, calling insurance reform efforts a "complete failure".

CEO Neil McDonnell said Isme was appalled that the Law Reform Commission was asked by the Department of Justice to consider a cap on general damages. The commission is to look at whether caps would be allowed under the Constitution.

The examination was recommended by the Cost of Insurance Working Group and the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) which last year found awards for injuries like whiplash were 4.4 times higher in Ireland than in England.

"The decision by Government to refer this matter to the LRC for consideration is a blatant abdication of their duties as an executive to tackle the problem of extortionate insurance costs in Ireland," said Mr McDonnell. He said there was a "complete failure by Minister of State Michael D'Arcy to make progress on the cost of insurance agenda".

Mr McDonnell also said his organisation was "astonished" the Law Reform Commission was not asked to consider reform of the Defamation Act.

The business group said defamation is the new tort of choice for those seeking to "extort" money from retailers, publicans and nightclubs.

Isme also questioned why the LRC was being asked to consider the need for a statutory offence of perjury, something the group has been lobbying for since 2017. A spokesperson for Mr D'Arcy said he was aware that there are a range of opinions on whether there are constitutional implications for legislating on award limit.

The minister believes any decision to legislate on the capping of damages has to be supported by evidence to justify such an approach. Otherwise, such legislation is likely to be legally challenged.

Irish Independent

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