PIAB: An early challenge.
The PIAB was only in its infancy when the much vaunted “Lawyer Free Zone” was challenged in a serious way. In the case of O'Brien v. Personal Injuries Assessment Board  a claimant and a lawyer acting on his behalf complained that the PIAB were wrong to state that they would not correspond with the solicitor but would only send him copies of letters that would be issued directly to the client. It is important to understand the very limited scope of the actual decision in this case.
The judge in his decision stated the following:
For the purposes of the instant proceedings, as already indicated, the issues to be determined were conveniently identified by the parties at the outset of the case.
The first question is whether the respondent, in declining to accept or act upon the authorisation dated 16th August, 2004, (described as a "confirmation and authority by client") by corresponding directly with the applicant (and copying such correspondence to his solicitors) is acting in breach of s.7 of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003. In this regard, I hold that the impugned conduct is without warrant under that or any section of the Act.
The next question is whether the respondent, in so acting, is acting in breach of the applicant's constitutional rights. In light of my decision on the question of vires, it is unnecessary for me to advance to a consideration of such constitutional issues. Nor do I consider it necessary to deal with the other issues raised in the issue paper.
Having heard submissions the declarations will take the following form
- 1. That the respondent in declining to accept or act upon the authorisation dated 16th August, 2004 (described as "a confirmation and authority by client"), by corresponding directly with the applicant (and copying such correspondence to his solicitors) is acting in breach of s. 7 of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board 2003, or without authority under any other provision of the Act.
- 2. Having regard to the declaration contained in paragraph 1 hereof the court does not find it necessary to rule on the balance of the issues referred to in "the list of issues" agreed between the parties.
Click here for the full text of the submissions in RTF Form
The matter was further advanced in a written judgement. It seems that there was an inability to agree the exact text and the Judge assisted. He was also asked to rule on costs. The PIAB Board also asked for his views on their solution which was to write to both the solicitor and the client and he has stated that it does not appear to be unreasonable. He points out that he has not heard argument on this from the Law Society when it was raised. The RTF Version of the written judgement is here.