Judge Barton Lends Support to Structured Payment Systems for Hospital Negligence Compensation Settlements

Hospital negligence compensation settlements may be resolved by a structured payment system in future after High Court judge shows support for the idea.

Several high-profile High Court judges have previously commented that there is a need for legislation to enable structured payment systems for hospital negligence compensation settlements-including Mr Justice John Quirke, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, and Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill. They suggested that the way in which such claims are settled at the moment can be a lottery on the basis of the anticipated life expectancy of a seriously injured victim.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton added his support to the movement last month, whilst presiding over the O’Neill vs National Maternity Hospital, a case involving a young girl born in the hospital in 2007. She suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of negligence by the hospital staff in regards to her birth. The defendants admit liability for her injuries, and wants to make an interim settlement of compensation. However, the mother of the young girl wants to a full settlement to be offered. Neither party can agree as to how much compensation the girl is entitled to.

The hospital wants to make an interim settlement of compensation as there is considerable conflict between parties about the costs of the girl’s future needs and potential loss of earnings. Therefore, offering an interim settlement would allow to compile a report over the next ten years to more accurately assess the correct settlement figure. However, her mother declined this settlement, on the grounds that her daughter may suffer psychological harm during ten years of continuous assessment.

The judge and both parties agreed that if structured payment systems were in place, it would be easier to resolve the dispute over how much compensation the girl-or any catastrophically injured plaintiff-should receive. Negotiations in this case continue, with hopes of them reaching an end in the near future.