Category Archives: Compensation Claims

Court Award Settlement for Failure to Refer

The High Court has approved the final settlement in a drawn – out compensation claim made after a doctor failed to refer his patient to a specialist despite worrying blood tests.

In October 2004, Catherine Sheehan had a blood test before the birth of her daughter. The test returned a concerning result, showing that Catherine’s blood antibody levels had undergone an “alarming increase”. However, Dr David Corr – her obstetrician – did not refer her to a specialist. One month later, on the 24th November, her daughter Isabelle was born at the Bon Secours Maternity Hospital in Cork with sever spastic quadriparetic cerebral palsy.

Isabelle is now eleven years old, and attends a Gaelscoil near Mallow, Co. Cork, where she lives. However, though described as “bright and intelligent”, Isabelle still struggles communicating with others. A machine was specially made to help her to walk, though she will be reliant on round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.

Dr Corr admitted liability for Isabelle’s condition after her mother made a claim against him for his failure to refer her to a specialist. Whilst speaking at a hearing to award an interim settlement of compensation in 2011, he told the court that he “very much regrets the outcome in relation to Isabelle´s birth”.

When the second interim settlement of compensation was awarded in October 2013, Catherine requested that they ceased to receive the interim settlements and instead received a lump sum. An assessment had to be carried out for several weeks prior to each settlement, and Catherine told the court that these disputed her daughters life.

The court granted the request, and the case went to the High Court for Mr Justice Peter Kelly to approve the €9 million settlement. Judge Kelly, who is also President of the High Court, said that it was a fair and reasonable settlement, and it was understandable why Catherine made the request. He also paid tribute to Isabelle’s parents, saying that Isabelle’s progress was so good because of her parents’ “truly remarkable” love, care and dedication.

Soar in Compensation Awarded by High Court

A thirty-four percent rise in the number of compensation settlements awarded by the High Court has been observed in 2014, with some claiming that this is because of over-generous judges.

Emer Lang, an analyst at Davy Stockbrokers, first noticed this increase in compensation awarded by the High Court when she collected information from the Courts Service Annual Report. The data showed that, in total, €155 million in compensation was given out, spread over five hundred and nine personal injury claims, in 2014.

This worked out to be an average of €304,000 per claim, and when compared with the average value of €227,000 in 2013, it showed that there was a 34% increase between the two years. The average value for assessments that were conducted by the Injuries Board did not increase over the same period, remaining at roughly €22,600.

Consultants from the motor insurance industry have reported their shock at the new figures. Conor Faughnan, at AA Ireland, commented that the judges dealing with these claims needed to be trained to help them gain an understanding that the compensation that they award is ultimately paid for the country’s two million drivers.

However, others blamed recent changes to the Courts and Civil Law Act in 2013, which meant that any case that was expected to settle for over €60,000 had to be heard in the High Court. Before this, the limit was €38,092. The Motor Insurance Advisory Board’s Founding Chairperson, Dorothea Dowling, claims that the plaintiffs are preferably using the High Court System, over the Injuries Board, in the hope of receiving more money.

“The Department of Justice was forewarned well in advance,” Ms Dowling told the Independent Newspaper. “This is what happens when you increase the limits of the lower courts – it sends out the message that €38,000 is small money.”

However, Mr Justice Bernard Barton does not agree – last July, he criticised the government for not updating injury compensation values in the Book of Quantum (upon which the Injuries Board bases its assessments) since 2004.

Judge Barton commented in McGarry vs McGarry that “it is unquestionably in the interests of the proper administration of justice that the Book be reviewed and be kept updated to properly reflect [High Court compensation awards]”.

New Scheme Launched for Symphysiotomy Claims

A new government-run scheme to help women claim symphysiotomy compensation for operations performed on them without adequate consent between 1940 and 1980 has been launched.

The scheme follows after the government changed its mind on extending the Statute of Limitations such that women who had unknowingly undergone the procedure during labour could claim compensation. There are an estimated three hundred and fifty women alive today who survived the procedure.

The symphysiotomy compensation scheme works on a three-tier basis, based upon how badly injured the victims were. Those who did not sustain any long-term damage are entitled to claim €50,000. Women who sustained a recorded disability because of the procedure can claim €100,000 while those who had previously had a Caesarean Section, and then had a symphysiotomy performed upon them can receive €150,000.

A former judge in the High Court, Maureen Harding-Clark, has been appointed by the government to oversee each claim, which must be submitted by the 5th December of this year. However, this deadline can be extended by a further twenty days should Judge Harding-Clark deem the case exceptional.

Once the claim has been processed and a compensation value determined, the claimants have up to twenty days to accept the offer. However, to do this, any action against the state must first be withdrawn by the claimant.

There are presently over one-hundred-and-fifty High Court actions for symphysiotomy claims on progress, and dates for two of the hearings have been confirmed. Marie O’Connor, head of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, has expressed her dissatisfaction with the new scheme as the time limit makes it “impossible for women to seek independent advice and to make a considered decision”.

The Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Mark Kelly, has also expressed his disapproval of the scheme, claiming that it contradicts the state’s obligations to human rights by not addressing compensation needs for each individual. Additionally, the compensation is being paid out without any admission by the state of their liability.