Augustus Cullen Law acted for the minor Plaintiff in a case against a hospital seeking damages for severe neurological injuries caused during the course of the minor Plaintiff’s birth. Liability for the minor Plaintiff’s injuries was admitted by the hospital and the case was heard as an assessment of damages before Mr Justice Barton. A preliminary issue was required to be determined by the trial judge at the outset of the case involving whether or not the Plaintiff was entitled to have her case dealt with on a once off lump sum payment or, if she should be required by the Court to accept an interim payment in relation to her current needs and have the balance of her case adjourned for a period of 9 or 10 years as argued by the Defendant. The Plaintiff’s parents were opposed to this and were concerned that any such deferral of a final resolution of the Plaintiff’s claim would have a detrimental effect on her resulting as it would in a further series of intrusive and disruptive assessments occurring at a particularly delicate developmental stage for the minor Plaintiff. The Defendant applied to the trial judge for an Order compelling the minor Plaintiff to submit to an interim payment.
The trial judge Mr Justice Barton heard evidence from the minor Plaintiff’s next friend and mother together with extensive legal submissions on the jurisdiction of the Court to intervene in litigation involving minor plaintiffs and the rights of the family as protected in the Constitution. Mr Justice Barton decided that the minor Plaintiff was entitled to have her case assessed by the Court in accordance with the law as it currently stood in circumstances where the supposed periodic payment legislation was not on the statute books and the minor Plaintiff’s parents having been properly advised as to their options, had made a rational decision in the best interests of their daughter. Mr Justice Barton noted that there was no exceptional circumstance of the type set out in the Supreme Court in North Western Health Board v. W (H) which might justify the Court in exercising its inherent jurisdiction and intervening contrary to wishes of the minor Plaintiff’s parents. It is also worth noting Mr Justice Barton’s comments in relation to the absence of any legislation providing for periodic payments despite numerous assurances over the last 5 years from Government that such legislation would be swiftly introduced: “This case and others like it illustrate, if illustration is required, the urgent necessity of bringing forward long promised legislation to amend the law in this area by providing for structured settlements and the making of periodic payment orders in such cases.”
The case was ultimately settled for a sum of €4,820,000, the minor Plaintiff and her parents having been provided with an admission of liability and a written apology from the Defendant hospital.
01 April 2015