In the Courts Service Annual Report 2014, which was recently published, Chief Justice Susan Denham described last year as a year of demands, challenges and opportunities. Emphasising the ever-changing needs of society as the catalyst for change within the Courts Service, the report reflected a year of significant developments and noteworthy trends.
- The long awaited Court of Appeal was established on 29 October 2014. 1,355 civil appeals were transferred from the Supreme Court to the Court of Appeal. As of 31 December 2014, 84 Ordinary Appeals and 34 expedited appeals had been lodged.
- The Supreme Court retained 800 appeals to be dealt with, following the establishment of the Court of Appeal. Now, cases in the High Court no longer have a general right of appeal to the Supreme Court, but instead a general right of appeal to the Court of Appeal. This will assist with the significant backlog of cases that has been reported for the past number of years. Nonetheless, the average waiting time for cases in the Supreme Court’s Priority list was 12 months, while the waiting time for the general list is now 4.5 years. This appears to be an increase of 1 month for Priority Appeals and 6 months for General Appeals, when compared to 2013.
- D&O insurers may be interested that there was a 6% increase in applications to restrict the directors of companies. The number of Restriction Orders against company directors increased by 9% this year, while Disqualification Orders decreased by 75%.
- The Commercial Court saw a slight increase in its workload in 2014, with 171 new cases being admitted to the High Court commercial list. Furthermore, there was a significant decrease of cases disposed of by the Commercial Court this year (34% less cases were disposed of in 2014, as compared to 2013). There is no waiting time to enter the commercial list, with a date immediately available. The waiting time for a full hearing can vary from one week to four months, depending on the time required for the hearing.
- There was a 26% decrease in personal injury suits filed in the High Court in 2014. Of the 7,047 High Court suits filed, 931 (13%) of these were related to medical negligence. The total damages awarded by the High Court in 2014 were €154,915,926 for personal injuries claims. The awards ranged from €2,000 to €9,000,000. This was a considerable increase of approximately €20,000,000 on the previous year. Furthermore, €13,794,354 was awarded by the Circuit Court for personal injury actions in 2014, a slight increase on 2013.
- There were 171 commercial litigation cases incoming to the High Court. Of these, 73 were resolved by the court and 38 out of court. Similarly, there were 2,149 incoming Chancery cases to the High Court. Of these, 493 were resolved by the court, while 282 were resolved out of court.
- Compared to 2013, there was a 31% increase in Regulation of Professions cases, with 213 in the High Court. There were 952 Breach of Contract cases in the High Court and 544 in the Circuit Court. This year, there were 824 Negligence cases and only 123 of these were resolved this year. Of them, 48 were resolved by the court and 75 were resolved out of court.