A plaintiff has been ordered to pay a proportion of the costs of a court hearing despite making a successful claim for medical negligence against the HSE.
Madeline Wright won her claim for medical negligence against the Health Service Executive (HSE) in May, after it was determined that there had been an avoidable and unacceptable delay in the treatment she received following a motorcycle accident in 2005.
However, further claims made against the Misericordiae and Sligo General Hospitals, and her orthopaedic surgeon – Mr Keith Synott – were found to be unsubstantiated, and considered by Ms Justice Mary Irvine to have taken up almost 80% of the courts time.
In a departure from the legal principal of “costs follow the event” the judge said although “[Madeline] must be deemed to be the overall winner of proceedings in which the defendants denied any liability” the claims of medical negligence were proven in only one leg of the court action and Madeline should be responsible for some of the costs of a court hearing.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine explained her position thus: “Just because a plaintiff has one good point they should not, to my mind, be permitted to litigate a myriad of others and have the court make an order requiring the successful defendant on such issues to pay for that luxury. There must be some sanction in terms of costs should this occur”.
The judge acknowledged that ordering Madeline to pay 80% costs of a court hearing was too harsh due to the complexity of the claim and – as there was no precedent in this type of litigation – that a reduction of 35% should act as a deterrent to any future plaintiff who may attempt to attach unsubstantiated allegations to a genuine claim.