The Supreme Court recently dismissed an appeal by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) that it is entitled by the PIAB Act 2003 to make direct contact with a complainant and is not required to make contact with his solicitor, if a complainant has appointed same to act on his behalf*. The Supreme Court upheld the original High Court ruling of 2005 that PIAB's policy of dealing directly with a complainant, and not through his solicitor, constituted an interference with the solicitor/client relationship, and had no foundation in the PIAB Act 2003.

The Supreme Court held that the process before PIAB could have serious consequences for a complainant, such as Statute of Limitation issues or the consequences of refusing an assessment in PIAB and achieving a lesser amount subsequently in court. The Court found that there is a fundamental right to legal representation and legal advice, and PIAB must recognise these rights and contact a complainant's solicitor accordingly.

However, the judge stated that PIAB is entitled, when requested to deal with a complainant's solicitor, to send the complainant copies of correspondence sent to his solicitor. This is the opposite of the PIAB's original practice of corresponding directly with clients and copying solicitors. This judge noted that this practice would keep a complainant informed of the process and the state of his claim, whilst recognising his choice of having a representative, and would also advance the policy of PIAB as an alternative forum, less formal than a court. 

*O'Brien v Personal Injuries Assessment Board [2008] IESC 71