Case Summary: O’Brien -v- The Personal Injuries Assessment Board [2007] 1 IR 328


Republic of Ireland

Where the Court's judgment would affect how the Respondent exercised its statutory powers in the future, the Supreme Court allowed a judicial review hearing to proceed.

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The Applicant was injured at work and instructed his solicitors to institute proceedings against his employers. The Applicant's solicitors wrote to the Respondent enclosing the fee and authorisation allowing them to act on the Applicant's behalf. The Respondent is the statutory body whose role it is to assess compensation paid to persons who have endured a personal injury. The Respondent refused to deal with the Applicant's solicitors as they had not yet received a medical report from the Applicant. The Applicant successfully sought a declaration from the High Court that the Respondent's actions breached the relevant legislation and costs were awarded in favour of the Applicant. By the time of the appeal to the Supreme Court, the Applicant had received authorisation from the Respondent allowing him to institute court proceedings. The Applicant argued the issue was now moot. The Respondent requested that the appeal proceed as it concerned issues relating to the exercise of its statutory powers.


The Supreme Court dismissed the Applicant's argument, finding that the Respondent retained a real interest in the matter, relating as it did to ongoing statutory powers and the question of costs.


Murray CJ cited the description of mootness in Goold -v- Collins and Borowski -v- Canada. He found that the Respondent had an interest in clarifying the legal point in issue as it would be of concern to many future applicants. Allowing the application to dismiss the case would have deprived the Respondent of its constitutional right to appeal. The Court also considered the implication of costs, as a successful outcome would clearly affect the initial High Court costs ruling.

Points of Note

This reasoning favours a long-term over a short-term approach. The doctrine of mootness was not a barrier to resolving an issue which would have persisted otherwise because it concerned a body exercising statutory functions and powers which required clarification.

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