Legal Updates

 Litigation and Dispute ResolutionApril 18, 2024

Supreme Court confirms Personal Injury Guidelines are Legally Binding

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The Supreme Court, in Delaney v The Personal Injuries Assessment Board, the Judicial Council, Ireland and the Attorney General [2024] IESC10, has upheld the legality of the personal injury guidelines adopted by the Judicial Council on 06 March 2021 (‘Guidelines’). However, a further finding by the court that the power given to the Judicial Council to make guidelines pursuant to section 7(2)g Judicial Council Act 2019 (‘2019 Act’) is unconstitutional in its present form means that any further changes to the Guidelines will require legislation by the Oireachtas.


In April 2019, the appellant suffered injuries to her leg following a trip and fall on a public footpath. An application for assessment was made to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (‘PIAB’) on 04 June 2019. At the time of the accident, the Book of Quantum was used to assess damages for injuries. However, when PIAB made its assessment on 14 May 2021, it applied the Guidelines, which were, by then, in force. PIAB recommended a figure of €3,000 for personal injury damages.

The appellant argued that if the Book of Quantum had applied, an award in the region of €18,000 - €34,000 was likely. A constitutional challenge was rejected by the High Court who noted that while the plaintiff had a right to have her damages assessed in accordance with well-established legal principles, there was no constitutional right that entitled her to a particular sum of money. It also held that the Guidelines did not encroach on judicial independence.

The High Court judgment was appealed to the Supreme Court, who agreed that the case involved issues of importance that warranted a direct appeal to that court.

Supreme Court Decision

A majority of the seven judges who heard the appeal held that the Guidelines are legally binding on the basis that they were independently ratified by the Oireachtas and given legal effect by the enactment of section 30 of Family Leave and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2021 (‘2021 Act’). Three judges of the court stipulated that the Guidelines should only be departed from where there is no reasonable proportion between the Guidelines and the award which should otherwise be made.

However, a majority of the Supreme Court did find that the power given to the Judicial Council to make guidelines pursuant to section 7(2)g of the 2019 Act is unconstitutional in its present form on the basis it is contrary to the independence of the judiciary as guaranteed by Article 35.2 of the constitution.

In terms of PIAB’s assessment of the appellant’s claim, the Supreme Court held that the transitory provisions of the 2021 Act, which enabled PIAB to apply the Guidelines, are constitutional and PIAB acted properly and in accordance with law. The appellant had no vested property or personal rights to have her case adjudicated by PIAB under any earlier guidelines, i.e. the Book of Quantum.


While the Supreme Court finding that the Guidelines are legally binding will ensure there is no disruption to the current assessment of claims, the judgment will have implications for the adoption of future guidelines. The current mechanism which allowed the Judicial Council to make guidelines is impermissible, so that legislative intervention by the Oireachtas will be required in due course.

DISCLAIMER: This document is for information purposes only and does not purport to represent legal advice. If you have any queries or would like further information relating to any of the above matters, please refer to the contacts above or your usual contact in Dillon Eustace.

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