John Lynch of Lynch Solicitors
As Covid 2020 draws to close it is worthwhile looking back at some of the legal highlights during the last twelve months. Some of these changes may have a long-lasting and profound impacts on the Irish legal landscape.
It would be hard to ignore.
It has had a profound effect on the way the legal system is going to operate going forward. After a virtual shutdown of the legal system, we have had a systemic change on how the system runs. We now have virtual hearings and electronic case management. The Supreme Court and Court of Appeal are now having hearings over various Zoom type internet-based systems. Paperwork is being filed electronically. All of this has made its way into all parts of the legal system. Hearings before the High Court and Circuit Court have been heard remotely. Case management is now being done remotely. This has now been passed into law and will prove invaluable going forward. We had a High Court medical negligence case dealt with in this way. We filed all our papers electronically. We had witnesses from the UK who gave their evidence over the internet. Both witnesses and lawyers were able to watch the case via the Zoom type system. Once we return to normal and when the backlog is cleared, this should be a significant cost saving while offering an efficient way of managing a case for the benefit of all concerned.
As a firm, we have welcomed the changes that have come about as a result of this pandemic.
We see this as a huge impetus to fine tune the way we provide our service.
We were very lucky that we had already embraced technology - we were fully computerised with a practice management system, paperless office and remote working.
A month before the real force of Covid was realised, we installed a web-based phone system that has the facility to do Zoom type meetings.
We are enthusiastic about the evolution that has come about in the provision of legal services which should lead to improved delivery to the client.
The Cervical Check story continues, as many women have cases yet to come before the courts.
We have a case starting in January before the High Court that highlights the human tragedy behind these cases. We were obliged over a period of a month of the diagnosis to have the case listed for hearing because of the client’s poor diagnosis and reduced life expectancy.
This client is being forced to look after her children via the court system in circumstances where our medical system has failed her. The pain and suffering from a very serious failure goes on.
The sleep disorder narcolepsy cases arose as a result of being given the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine.
There are an estimated 100 people who have developed the crippling life-long condition as a result of taking the vaccine.
A test case has provided a framework to deal with these cases.
A quasi-legal process has been devised to deal with all of the narcolepsy cases.
It remains to be seen how this process will work but it is, again, a novel way of dealing with cases. The hope is that it will lead to less costly and more efficient handling of cases.
Divorce time limits
During 2020 it has been difficult to assess the impact of the two year reduction due the Covid.
However, based on our cases, we have seen a trend that sees the expected fall off of judicial separations.
This is hardly surprising and should lead to a reduction in the case loads and shorter waiting time for hearings, not to mention the saving in costs.
How long do I have?
The Statute of Limitations in medical negligence cases has been a cause for concern.
Generally the window of time in taking a case is two years, with a rider the two years cannot start until you know or ought to have known certain facts to make a case.
Two cases that came before the Supreme Court have clarified the situation.
These cases involved an analysis of the “knowledge” principle as it is applied.
While these cases may not have been widely reported, their effect will be long-lasting and will have implications for people taking negligence and, in particular, medical negligence cases in the future.
Wills & Enduring Powers of Attorney
We continue to see an increase in the number of people who are making plans for their future.
The pandemic has seen a significant increase despite our various lockdowns.
During the year we have had a review of the law on personal care decisions by attorneys by the High Court.
This a welcome clarification which, simply put, re-enforced the authority of the attorney.
We found the challenge of making a Will or Enduring Power of Attorney safe during this year a very instructive exercise which will serve our clients going forward.
It is quite incredible what you can do if you are left with little or no choice.
What can we expect in 2021?
It is inevitable, when this is all over, that what has happened during the Covid period, will be the subject of scrutiny by the courts in various guises.
We watch with interest how the developments that have come into force during the pandemic will evolve when things return to normal. From everyone at Lynch Solicitors, we wish you a safe Christmas and a healthy New Year.