ISME expresses its gratitude to the Committee on Finance,Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach for the consideration shown to them and the Alliance for Insurance Reform on 4th April.
It was clear to us that many members of the Committee did not understand just how critical the situation was for small business until one of the business representatives, Linda Murray, broke down while explaining that her business has 25 days left before her public liability insurance expires.
As emotional as her testimony was, ISME wishes to impress on the Committee that her business is not unique, and that ISME deals with businesses on a weekly basis which are faced with the same existential issue. Others, who require commercial motor insurance, are required by law to have certain insurances if they are to trade legally.
ISME informed the Committee that there is no ‘silver bullet’ for the issue
- Quantum is too high, and must be reduced by legislation.
- Our legal system is flawed, and must be reformed.
- Our judiciary requires oversight and continuous professional development, like any other group of professionals. This requires the early enactment of the Judicial Council Bill.
- Our insurance system is opaque. It needs transparency and robust regulation. The consumer protection mandate must be removed from the Central Bank and given to another authority.
ISME believe that it is also in the interests of the judiciary for general damages to be capped by legislation. In the absence of this, it would be inevitable that plaintiffs who had excessive, unjust or punitive general damages awarded against them in a case of minor injury would seek to initiate a complaint against the judge concerned under Section 39 of the Judicial Council Bill. In the absence of explicit and robust reasoning by a judge for doing so, it would be difficult for that judge to justify an award that departed significantly from Book of Quantum guidelines, where other judges had stuck to the Book of Quantum for analogous injuries. Were this to prove to be the case, the Registrar would be overwhelmed with complaints against certain judges.
That is one of the reasons ISME believes that primary legislation capping damages, as requested by Justice Nicholas Kearns in his first draft (unpublished) of the final report of the Personal Injuries Commission, is unavoidable.
It is also why ISME believes it would be illogical for the Law Society or the Bar Council to oppose the Civil Liability (Capping of General Damages) Bill 2019 proposed by Senator Anthony Lawlor.
At the end of the hearing, the Committee Chair asked us to forward to him the representation we had made to Government on the matter. ISME will comply with his request as soon as possible.
In view of the criticisms expressed by ISME about the conduct of a minority of members of the legal profession and the judiciary, the Committee chair also stated that they would be welcome to make representations to the Committee.
ISME believes this would be very productive and useful.
Lastly, in views of the concerns we expressed about the legal system, the insurance market, and the judiciary, ISME has forwarded our Committee submission to the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, and to the EU Commissioner for Competition.