It is a challenging task to attempt to review the progress of tort law over the past half-century. There is a huge uncertainty as to what tort law is seeking to achieve. Judges are circumspect and academics completely divided. Is the goal of imposing tort liability to sanction wrongdoing? To compensate victims? To engage in a process of distributive justice or, more radically, social justice? Courts are called upon to address these questions in the particular context of a contested case and there has been a tendency to answer them either by resort to concepts of high abstraction, such as ‘proximity of relationship’ in the tort of negligence, or else to invoke amorphous ‘policy considerations’.
Tort law does not operate in a social vacuum. The fact that there is insurance cover for drivers, employers and householders has shaped the pattern of litigation. Ireland’s membership of the European Community and, later, Union has also had important effects in shaping tort law, in relation to health and safety in the workplace and consumer protection.
There are also wider international cultural influences, less easy to pin down but no less real on that account. Over the past couple of decades, there has been a discernible shift of sentiment in the community away from what is stigmatised as the compensation culture. This has resulted in legislation restricting occupiers’ obligations to recreational users and trespassers, establishing the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, with its associated Book of Quantum and policing closely the evidence of plaintiffs …
William Binchy, ‘Tort Law In Ireland: A Half-Century Review’, Irish Jurist 2016, 56(56), 199-218.