Cost of Compensation Claims taken Against the State Increase to €2.2bn

Following another busy year for personal injury claims the overall amount of money paid out compensation claims against the State increased by almost a fifth to €2.2 billion by the end of 2016.

In a report released by the State Claims Agency at the end of September there is more evidence that the cost of the compensation claims taken against the State has continyed to increase. The State body is responsible for managing legal cases brought against the State.

By the end of last year the approximate cost of outstanding compensation actions against the State had grown to by €400m to €2.2 billion, an increase of 22 per cent, during the 12 months of 2016.

Notable Increase Shown in Stage Claims Agency Release

  • 8,900 legal compensation actions were classified as pending against the State at the end of 2016. This figure was just 6,000 in 2011.
  • A 24% increase, from the 2015 figures, in legal actions was experienced. There were approximately 2,300 legal actions against the State during 2016..

Other reasons for the increase include a recent Supreme Court ruling. The ruling stated that compensation sums paid to anyone who successfully sues for damages should be higher as the returns on the cash they are due to receive have fallen. This result in increased amounts awarded in compensation.

The State Claims Agency, established in 2001 handles personal injury, clinical negligence and property damage claims taken against State bodies. it is part of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA). The NTMA is responsible for the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) and New Era, which oversees commercial State companies.

Claim for a Hospital Fall Injury Heard in Court

A woman, who fractured her spine after falling out of bed, has successfully made a claim for a hospital fall injury at a hearing of the Circuit Civil Court.

The woman – who lives in Finglas, Dublin – made her claim for a hospital fall injury following her accident at the Mater Hospital in April 2015. The woman had attended the hospital as a day patient for a routine gastroscopy procedure. However, as she was recovering from the procedure, she attempted to get out of bed and fell – suffering a fractured spine.

Her injury resulted in an extended stay at the Mater Hospital before being transferred to the Incorporated Orthopaedic Hospital in Clontarf for specialised treatment. She remained in Clontarf Hospital for three months before being removed by her daughter who was concerned about her wellbeing.

After seeking legal advice, the woman made a claim for a hospital fall injury against the Mater Hospital; alleging she had been left alone to recover after the procedure, which – as she had previously been hospitalised following a fall at her home – was in contravention of the hospital´s own falls prevention policy.

Her claim went to the Circuit Civil Court, where it was heard by Judge James O´Donohoe. At the hearing, the judge was told the accident had a serious effect on the plaintiff´s quality of life. Rather than cope with most things by herself, as she had done prior to her accident, the woman now had to wear a lumbar brace and walks with the assistance of a Zimmer frame.

An expert witness on behalf of the plaintiff testified the hospital had failed in its duty of care to the plaintiff by failing to adhere to its falls prevention policy and a representative of the hospital explained how the accident happened. However, the hospital´s representative could not tell Judge O´Donohoe why the nurse who first attended the plaintiff after her fall had not been called to give evidence.

Commenting that the nurse´s absence “speaks volumes” the judge found in the plaintiff´s favour and awarded her €58,500 compensation in settlement of her claim for a hospital fall injury. The judge granted a request to place a stay on the award pending a possible appeal, but ordered that €30,000 of the compensation settlement was paid immediately.

Woman Awarded Compensation for Dog Bite Injuries

A woman has been awarded more than €234,000 compensation for dog bite injuries she sustained in a terrifying attack by two powerful boxer dogs.

The unnamed woman was enjoying an evening walk along a rural lane when the attack happened. Two boxer dogs, who had been standing in the driveway of their owner´s home, started to approach her. The woman told them to go home, but they jumped up at her, knocked her to the ground, and started attacking her.

The woman´s first thoughts were to protect her face by covering it with her arms, but the dogs managed to get through her defences – biting her face, head, forearms and body, and causing multiple puncture wounds and lacerations that have now developed into visible and permanent scars.

The attack was stopped by a passing lady motorist, who sounded the horn of her car and frightened the dogs away. The boxer dogs have since been destroyed and their owners admitted liability when the woman made a claim for compensation for dog bite injuries. In order to settle the claim, the case went to the High Court for an assessment of damages.

At the assessment hearing, Mr Justice Anthony Barr was told the details of the attack. The judge also heard evidence from medical experts who attested to her physical and emotional injuries. When the woman gave her evidence, she told the judge who she had been devastated by the change in her appearance and how her young children had been frightened to get close to her.

Judge Barr was shown photographs of the woman taken shortly before and after the attack, and he accepted she had undergone a profound change in her appearance, personality and mental state as a result. The judge also acknowledge she had suffered a moderate level of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Awarding the woman €234,557 compensation for dog bite injuries, the judge said he was confident she had had not exaggerated the injuries she had sustained nor embellished the details of the terrifying attack.

Man Sentenced for Historic Child Abuse

A man from County Clare has been given a suspended prison sentence of fifteen months for the historic child abuse of a fourteen-year-old boy in 1976.

The incident occurred in June 1976 at a campsite outside of Cheekpoint – a small village on the River Suir, approximately twelve kilometres outside of Waterford. The victim was one of a small group of teenage boys that had arrived in Waterford earlier in the day and been taken to the campsite by their scout leader.

Later that evening, the scout leader – who cannot be named as it would identify the victim – beckoned to the fourteen-year-old boy to come closer to his tent and, as the boy approached, he was pulled inside of the tent. The scout leader then started tickling him and touching him inappropriately. The boy did not report the historic child abuse until 2013.

When questioned by the gardaí, the former scout leader – who is now 73 years of age and lives in County Clare – admitted that he might have touched the boy inappropriately and was charged with historic child abuse. He subsequently resigned from UCC´s Board of Management and was placed on the sexual offenders list. He also paid his victim more than €7,500 compensation.

At the sentencing hearing at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Eugene O´Kelly heard the offender describe the event as “an isolated incident from many years ago” for which he was extremely sorry. The judge was also told the former scout leader had no former convictions and – due to being placed on the sexual offenders list – no longer has access to his grandchildren.

The court was also read a victim impact statement in which it was claimed the victim – now 54 years of age – had suffered nightmares as a result of the historic child abuse and, later in life, had drunk heavily – causing his business to suffer as a result. The victim´s legal representative told the court he has been taking anti-depressants for the past twenty-eight years.

Judge O´Kelly initially sentenced the former scout leader to twenty months in prison – reducing the sentence to fifteen months and suspending it for three years due to a “significant element of remorse” and the fact that the historic child abuse took place more than forty years ago.

Advice about Compensation for Noise Induced Hearing Loss

A settlement of injury compensation for noise induced hearing loss should take into account the consequences of the injury on your quality of life.

If you have suffered damage to your hearing due to an employer´s failure to provide a safe environment for you to work in, you will be eligible to claim compensation for noise induced hearing loss. The usual process for this is to apply to the Injuries Board for an assessment of your claim and support your application with a report from your doctor explaining the extent of your injury.

It is also important you communicate the consequences of your injury as well. The Injuries Board can only assess your application based on the information provided. If you fail to mention your quality of life has deteriorated and you have less self-confidence than previously because of your injury, the Injuries Board will be unaware of these factors and not account for them in the assessment of your claim.

The consequences of your injury will have to be supported with documentary evidence wherever possible for the consequences of your injury to be considered in the assessment of compensation for noise induced hearing loss. In many cases this can be difficult, and is why you should seek legal advice from an injury solicitor with experience of submitting applications for assessment to the Injuries Board.

In order to get a full understanding of how your noise induced hearing loss has affected your quality of life, your solicitor will ask you to keep a diary and record the times when your loss of hearing has made a noticeable difference to your quality of life. This may be when you find it hard to watch a film on TV, follow a conversation in a pub, or enjoy an outing with your family.

Your solicitor will help you complete the application to the Injuries Board to ensure these factors are included in their assessment, and to ensure you receive an appropriate settlement of injury compensation for noise induced hearing loss. If you are unable to speak over the phone with a solicitor because of the extent of your injury, you can have somebody call on your behalf or arrange a home visit.

Jogger Awarded Compensation for a Trip and Fall Injury on Council Land

A jogger has been awarded €60,000 compensation for a trip and fall injury on council land after the council attempted to argue that the claim was fraudulent.

On September 18th, 2011, the male jogger tripped on a hole in the surface of a footpath in the Clondalkin caravan site in Dublin. When he fell, he fractured a knuckle on his right hand which he subsequently had to undergo surgery for and has since been left with a scar.

As the caravan site is owned and managed by South Dublin County Council, the jogger claimed compensation for a trip and fall injury on council land. The council disputed liability and argued the man – who was a keen boxer – had injured his knuckle in a fight.

Due to the dispute over liability, the case went to the High Court where it was heard by Mr Justice Anthony Barr. During the hearing, it was disclosed that the man had been involved in a car accident the previous day in which he had suffered soft tissue injuries to his neck and back.

The council used this information to express doubts that the man would have gone jogging the day after an accident, and repeated its argument that the injury had been sustained in a boxing match. However, judge Barr accepted the evidence of a medical witness, who testified that the man was just trying to run off his soft tissue injury.

The judge concluded this was a “credible explanation” for why the man had been jogging on the morning after a car accident, and awarded him €55,000 compensation for a trip and fall injury on council land – increasing the award by €5,000 to account for the aggressive manner in which the council had pursued their argument the claim was fraudulent.

Judge Barr said in his closing remarks that the evidence suggested the plaintiff was injured in the manner in which he had claimed. He added there was no evidence to suggest the jogger was making a fraudulent claim, and he was entitled to the additional compensation for the upset caused to him by the nature of the unsuccessful defence put forward by South Dublin County Council.

Claims for Car Accident Injuries Settled in Court

Two claims for car accident injuries compensation – made by plaintiffs injured in the same accident – have been settled for a combined total of €37,500.

The two injured plaintiffs were travelling in the same car from Dublin to Newry for a pre-Christmas shopping expedition in November 2013. While driving along the M1 at a speed of 80-90kmph, the sun roof of the car they were travelling in blew off. Alarmed at the sudden noise and the rush of air entering the car, the driver – one of the two injured plaintiffs – braked hard.

The rapid deceleration of the vehicle caused the two plaintiffs and three other family members travelling in the car, to suffer whiplash-type injuries. Two children strapped into child seats were unharmed. The second plaintiff – the driver´s 72-year-old mother – suffered the worse injuries of all, including a compression fracture to one of the vertebrae in her lower back.

The injured members of the family made claims for car accident injuries against the showroom from which the car had been purchased just four months earlier. It was alleged in the claims for car accident injuries that the sun roof had been faulty and the fault should have been identified by the dealer – Denis Mahony Limited of Kilbarrack Road in Dublin.

Mahony´s denied liability for the faulty sun roof and the plaintiffs´ injuries, but – at the Circuit Civil Court in Dublin – Mr Justice Raymond Groarke was told that corrosion found around the remaining frame of the sun roof would have been present on the Toyota at the time it was sold. According to the testimony of an independent motor assessor, the corrosion led to the sun roof blowing off.

Judge Groarke said he accepted that the sun roof flying off at 90kmph would have been a terrifying experience and understood why the driver plaintiff had applied the brakes so sharply. He awarded the driver of the car €12,500 compensation and her mother €25,000 compensation in settlement of their claims for car accident injuries.

Toxic Chemical Exposure Claims at Casement Airbase

The Journal published an article about toxic chemical exposure claims at Casement Airbase and the effects chemicals had on servicemen and their families.

According to the article, a former Air Corps mechanic has made toxic chemical exposure claims at Casement Airbase to highlight a lack of health and safety procedures. The “whistle-blower” has alleged that servicemen, their partners and their children have suffered illnesses and development issues – and in some cases death – due to exposure to carcinogenic and mutagenic chemicals.

The claims were made under a protected disclosure agreement in an address to Ministers, TDs, senators and a Defence Forces representative. They were supported by documentation claiming twenty former servicemen may have died due to the exposure to toxic chemicals. Five children born with cancer-related conditions or birth defects are also claimed to have died due to their parents´ exposure.

The former Air Corps mechanic told the assembly: “I have come across several personnel whose wives have had multiple miscarriages both in serving and in retired personnel. In one case, a retired member’s wife had eight miscarriages in succession. I am also aware of three personnel who shared in an office in Casement´s engineering wing whose wives all had a miscarriage in the same six-month timeframe.”

The latest toxic chemical exposure claims at Casement Airbase are in addition to six personal injury claims already being made against the Defence Forces by former air corps servicemen. In their claims the former servicemen claim they were exposed to high levels of the restricted substance dichloromethane for up to twelve years despite the Defence Forces being aware of the health risks.

The Defence Forces have also been threatened with prosecution by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) who last year conducted an inspection of the working conditions at Casement Airbase. Among a series of faults at the airbase, inspectors found a failure to conduct risk assessments or provide personal protective equipment to personnel working with hazardous substances.

When asked to comment on the latest toxic chemical exposure claims at Casement Airbase, a spokesperson for the Department of Defence told the Journal an independent investigator was reviewing the claims and there would be no comment until the final report was received and studied. A spokesperson for the Defence Forces told the Journal: “Given these matters are subject to litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Judge Reluctant to Approve Compensation for an Eyebrow Injury

A judge has said he is reluctant to approve a settlement of compensation for an eyebrow injury until the impact of the injury in later life is known.

The proposed settlement of compensation for an eyebrow injury was in a relation to a claim made on behalf of a four-year-old girl, who was injured in an accident while travelling with her mother on a Dublin bus in 2015.

The accident occurred when the bus driver braked suddenly to avoid an unmarked garda car that had pulled out into a bus lane. Although strapped into her buggy, the girl – who was twenty-two months old at the time – hit her head on an upright support of the bus.

Following the accident, the girl was taken to Temple Street Children´s Hospital, where a cut on the girl´s forehead was cleaned and sealed with seristrips. Although a barely visible scar remains, it is possible that the girl´s eyebrow hair will not develop normally as she gets older.

A claim for compensation for an eyebrow injury was made by the girl´s mother on her daughter´s behalf. Dublin Bus and the Garda Commissioner accepted liability for the injury, and a settlement of compensation amounting to €10,000 was offered to the family.

As the claim for compensation for an eyebrow injury had been made on behalf of a minor, the proposed settlement had to be approved by a judge before it could be finalised. Consequently, at the Circuit Civil Court last week, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke was told the circumstances of the accident and the consequences of the injury.

Judge Groarke inspected the young girl´s eyebrow and said he could still see a visible scar. He commented that, as it was difficult to tell if the girl had made a complete recovery, he was reluctant to approve the settlement at this stage. He adjourned the approval hearing for six weeks in order that a medical report could be prepared on how the injury may interfere with the growth of the girl´s eyebrow hair in the future.

Sanofi Acknowledges Valproate Birth Defect Claims

The drug manufacturer Sanofi has issued a statement acknowledging the valproate birth defect claims being made against the company in a French class action.

The drug responsible for prompting the valproate birth defects claims is Depakine – an anti-epilepsy drug that has been available in Ireland since 1983 under the trade name Epilim. Epilim contains an active ingredient – sodium valproate – that stabilises electrical activity in the brain and has therefore also been prescribed for bipolar disorder, migraine and other chronic pain conditions.

When taken by pregnant mothers, the risk exists that the sodium valproate will be absorbed as valproic acid in the bloodstream and affect the health of their unborn child. In Ireland, children born after being exposed to valproic acid can suffer from spina bifida, autism and a range of congenital and development issues under the umbrella term “foetal valproate syndrome”.

The risks were first identified in France in the 1980s – where Depakine had been prescribed since 1967 – but no formal announcement was made to the medical profession by Sanofi until 2006. Even then, few medical professionals were aware of the side effects until France´s social affairs inspectorate – IGAS – investigated valproate birth defect claims in the Rhone-Alpes region last year.

IGAS´ research revealed that around 450 babies in the region had been born with congenital defects between 2006 and 2014 after being exposed to valproic acid. The report called for a warning to be printed on the outside of each box of Epilim advising pregnant women not to take the drug, and also promoted a much deeper study of the risks by France’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM).

The results of that study were recently released following an investigation into the health of 8,701 children, born to women known to have taken Depakine while pregnant between 2007 and 2014. The results revealed that up to 4,100 children had been born with “severe malformations” and many hundreds more had died in the womb or been delivered stillborn.

Following the release of the study, Sanofi issued a statement in which the company said: “We are aware of the painful situation confronting the families of children showing difficulties that may have a link with the anti-epileptic treatment of their mother during pregnancy.” However, the statement has not satisfied parents of the children affected by the side effects of Epilim, and they have started a class action of valproate birth defect claims to recover compensation for their children.

In Ireland, Epilim is still sold without a warning in large type on the front of the packet, and it is not known how many children have been born with birth defects due to being exposed to valproic acid. If a member of your family has been affected by this tragic situation, and you would like to know more about valproate birth defect claims, you should speak with a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.