Judge Orders CCTV Release in Dublin Bus Injury Claim

A judge in Dublin´s High Court has ruled that Dublin´s bus company has to release CCTV footage to solicitors representing a claimant in a Dublin Bus injury claim.

The judgement was made by Mr Justice John Hedigan following years of stalling by the bus company and decisions made in the claimant´s favour by the Data Protection Commissioner and Judge Jacqueline Linnane in the Circuit Civil Court. The bus company had argued that the information they possessed about the claimant was privileged and, as potential evidence in litigation, they were not prepared to release it.

The Dublin Bus injury claim first started in October 2009, when a female claimant from Dublin alleged that she had sustained an injury aboard a Dublin Bus the previous year. Dublin Bus refused to accept liability for the woman´s injuries and the Injuries Board Ireland declined to assess her application for Dublin Bus injury compensation.

During preparation for court proceedings, the claimant´s solicitor were advised of the existence of CCTV footage taken aboard the bus and were shown a video relating to their client´s claim for Dublin Bus injury compensation at Dublin Bus´s office. A request for a copy of the video was denied and, even after the claimant´s solicitors had complained to the Data Protection Commissioner, Dublin Bus continued to withhold the CCTV footage.

Dublin Bus appealed the Data Protection Commissioner´s decision to release the video and took their case to the Circuit Civil Court. However, in July 2011, Judge Jacqueline Linnane ruled that the bus company should release the video to the solicitors on the grounds that the claimant had every right by law to request access to the CCTV footage in support of her Dublin Bus injury claim and that Dublin Bus had no right to withhold it.

Dublin Bus then chose to delay a resolution to the claim for Dublin Bus injury compensation by appealing Judge Linnane´s decision to the High Court, but Mr Justice John Hedigan found in favour of the claimant, stating that that Dublin Bus had “not raised a point of law giving rise to grounds for overturning Judge Linnane’s decision”.


Compensation Claim Settled for Low Hanging Poster Injury

A woman who walked into a Dublin advertising poster, and sustained head and neck injuries, has settled her compensation claim for low hanging poster injury for 38,000 Euros.

Sandra Memery (48)  was leaving her local MacDonald´s restaurant with her daughter on 16th September 2009 when the accident occurred. Having turned back towards her daughter to give her a bag, she started walking forward again, and immediately hit her head on the corner of the low hanging poster campaigning on behalf of Fianna Fail for a “Yes” vote in the second Lisbon Treaty referendum.

After feeling unwell for a day, Sandra visited her doctor, where she was diagnosed with lacerations to her scalp, a swelling over her right temporal and soft tissue damage to her neck. Sandra, who is 5 ft 5 in tall (1.65m) made a compensation claim for low hanging poster injury, stating that the campaign poster should have a minimum of three metres clearance from the floor.

Contesting the claim, Fianna Fail and Executive Posters Ltd jointly claimed that Sandra was responsible for her own injuries through contributory negligence and should have paid more attention to where she was walking. However, shortly before Sandra´s case was about to be heard at Dublin´s Circuit Civil Court, her legal representatives announced to the court that a compensation settlement had been agreed upon in the amount of 38,000 Euros.


Falling Object in Shop Results in 25,000 Euro Compensation

A falling objecting in a shop has resulted in a €25,000 compensation award in the Circuit Civil Court.

Breeda Redican of Donabate, County Dublin, was injured in July 2009 when a tin of paint fell on her foot from a shelf at the Homebase store in Santry, County Dublin. The accident happened when Redican requested help finding a specific type of paint from a sales assistant. The assistant pointed out the location of the paint on a shelf at face level height but simply stood beside Redican while she attempted to left the can of paint.  The can of paint was 2.5 litters and handle on the tin was not visible because the tins were closed packed together. Redican was unable to heavy paint tin and it slipped and fell on her right foot.  Redican was earring flip-flops and required stitching on her toes. Redican has suffered ongoing reduced mobility in her foot with some pain.

Homebase denied any negligence but Judge Jacquline Linnane awarded €25,000 compensation.


Judge Condemns “Unacceptable” Delays in Hearings

A senior High Court judge has voiced his concerns over the “regrettable, embarrassing, unsatisfactory and unacceptable” delays litigants are experiencing in bringing personal injury claims to court.

Mr Justice John Quirke expressed his opinion in the Dublin High Court after learning that an expert witness, who had been waiting for five days to give testimony on behalf of a defendant in a personal injury claim, had to return to England.

The judge told the assembled barristers and litigants that there were currently 55 cases on his list waiting to be heard – some of which concerned victims with catastrophic injuries – but there were no available courts or judges available for them.

He apologised for the developing pattern where experts were being brought to court on a specific date, only to be kept waiting for longer than a week to give testimony, and commented that Ireland had the lowest number of judges per capita in the developing world.

Mr Justice John Quirke said to the packed court that there was much he could do except fix a date for the hearing to go ahead in the next term and that he was embarrassed by the situation where so many people were left waiting.


Judge Criticises Delay in Periodic Compensation Scheme

Mr Justice John Quirke has spoken out against delays in introducing “periodic payment orders” for personal injury compensation cases in which catastrophic injuries have been sustained. Describing the current lump-sum award system as “a lottery situation”, the chairman of the Working Group on Medical Negligence has been pressing for more than a year for a periodic payment system to be introduced.

The judge was addressing lawyers representing the State and Health Service Executive when his concerns about delays in the promised legislation were made public. Mr Justice John Quirke told the assembly that the informal approval of a life-long payments system had already saved the State “tens of millions” of Euros, however he claimed that seriously ill people would be in an unsatisfactory position if the laws were not speedily introduced.

The judge brought to the lawyers attention two specific cases which are due for review in October 2011.

The first concerned Brid Courtney of Ardfert, County Kerry, who was awarded an interim personal injury settlement of 2 million Euros in compensation for alleged negligence at her birth. Now suffering the consequences of birth-acquired brain damage, Brid will need lifelong care – care which should be paid for in periodic payments if legislation is passed in time.

The second case revolved around Elaine Lennon of Balbriggin, County Dublin, who is now severely disabled due to the failure of the Castle Mill Medical Centre to properly diagnose a brain infection during her pregnancy. Elaine too was awarded in excess of 2 million Euros as an interim settlement on the basis that she would benefit from the periodic payments structure once legislation was introduced.

In his comments to the lawyers, Mr Justice John Quirke expressed that if the State failed to quickly make its intentions clear about how soon periodic payment legislation was to be introduced, judges would have no option but to revert to sanctioning lump sum payments – at great expense to the State and Health Service Executive.


45,000 Euros Compensation for “Disaster” Hair

An artist and painter, whose hair fell out following a hair colouring treatment at a Galway hair salon, has won her claim for personal injury compensation at the High Court in Dublin.
Aileen Dunleavy (40) from Salthill, County Galway, sued Hair Republic of Galway for negligence and breach of care of duty towards her after her hair started falling out following a treatment in the salon in March 2007.
Aileen claimed in her action that she had not been warned that the colouring treatment could have an adverse effect on her hair, and that the treatment itself was applied by a stylist who was both inexperienced and insufficiently skilled.
Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O´Neill heard at the High Court how Aileen had become socially withdrawn due to the sense of embarrassment she suffered as a result of what happened to her hair and had been unable to paint in a meaningful way.
Finding in favour of the claimant, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O´Neill awarded Aileen 45,000 Euros in compensation and described what had happened to her as “a disaster”. The judge stated that he had no doubt that the hairdressing salon was wholly responsible for Aileen’s trauma.


40,000 Euros Compensation Awarded for Nightclub Bite Injury

A nightclub patron, who had the top of his ear bitten off in an unprovoked dancefloor attack, has been awarded 40,000 Euros compensation against the owners of the nightclub. Darren Curneen (28) of Clondalkin, County Dublin, had visited the Sidewalk Night Club, Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin, on February 3rd 2002 and was socialising with friends on the dance floor, when he felt a sharp pain from behind. He placed his hand up to his ear and discovered that it was covered in blood and part of the ear was missing. Darren´s attacker was later arrested with blood on his lips and face but, as Mr Justice Peter Charleton heard at the High Court, this had not been an isolated incident as Darren´s attacker had previously bitten another patron´s ear just a few minutes beforehand.
After seeking legal advice, Darren sued Lacefield Taverns Ltd, trading as Sidewalk Night Club, claiming that they owed a duty of care towards him as a patron of their premises and, as the company declined to be represented in court, the case went undefended. Assessing the level of damages to be awarded, Mr Justice Peter Charleton took into account that Darren had suffered pain in the ear for four years after the attack and, although he had been offered plastic surgery to repair the damage, there were no guarantees that any treatment would repair the permanent disfigurement of the ear. When he announced the award of 40,000 Euros the judge added that it was clear the nightclub had a duty of care to those on the premises, and they should have dealt with the attacker and protected their patrons.


Compensation Approved for Hair Dye Reaction

A teenage boy, who suffered a severe allergic reaction and hair loss after a hair colouring treatment went wrong, has had a compensation settlement of 12,500 Euros approved in the Civil Circuit Court. The unnamed boy, now aged 17, had gone to Peter Mark Hair Stylists of St. Stephen´s Green, County Dublin, in October 2009, to have highlights he had previously in his hair removed in order to allow his hair to return to its natural colour.
However, after the treatment, the boy´s hair started to fall out and he developed spots, ulcers and a swelling on his scalp. He also suffered a reaction which resulted in a severe skin irritation that spread across his forehead and down to his eye level.
Mr Justice Matthew Deery at the Civil Circuit Court heard that the boy´s reaction had not lasted long due to being prescribed steroids to counter the effects of the treatment and that Peter Mark Hair Stylists had offered the boy 12,500 Euros in compensation plus special damages of 1,915 Euros and the costs of his claim.


Teenager Assaulted by Shop Security Awarded 10,000 Euros

A teenage girl, who has represented Ireland playing International Ladies Soccer, has been awarded 10,000 Euros damages for injuries inflicted on her by a shop security man.
Kirsty Hogan (14) of Dublin, was passing the entrance of the Spar Shop in Cumberland Road, Dublin, in October 2008 when the assault happened. The shop security man, Patrick Okorie, attempted to stop Kirsty to obtain her telephone number in relation to an alleged previous incident in the shop.
An argument ensured during which, it was claimed, that Mr. Okorie had kicked Kirsty beneath her jaw – causing her to bleed profusely. Kirsty went straight home to her mother, who reported the incident to the Gardai and took Kirsty to hospital.
In the subsequent Gardai investigation, Mr. Okorie had signed an ‘adult caution’ in Fitzgibbon Street Garda station, and although alleging during the court hearing that he was acting in self-defence, Judge Joseph Mathews accepted the account of the incident given by Kirsty.
The award of 10,000 Euros was made against the owner of the store, Raymond Conboy.


Families in Cork Plane Crash Sue for 100 Million Euros

Survivors and families of the victims of the plane crash which killed six passengers and injured six more at Cork Airport in February, are preparing to claim up to 100 million Euros in compensation.
The crash, which happened in thick fog, caused the commuter plane from Belfast to flip over and burst into flames on its third attempt at landing. Both the pilot and co-pilot were killed in the accident.
The survivors and dependants of those who were killed are compiling a legal case against the Isle of Man airline Manx2, the Spanish flight operator Flightline BCN and the American manufacturers of the Fairchild Metroliner sw4.
As Ireland is a signatory to the Montreal Convention, the claimants would usually be entitled to compensation from the CAA not exceeding 120,000 Euros per injured person. However legal advisers feel that a more acceptable figure can be attained through court action – citing cases such as the Air France Flight 358 crash in Toronto which was partially settled after 3 years for $12 million.
Manx2 have already denied responsibility, as they claim that they only acted as a booking agent for the flight and that they chartered the aircraft from Flightline BCN. More will be known later this week when the preliminary report into the disaster by the Air Accident Investigation Unit is released.


Forty Six Per Cent Increase in Compensation Payouts by State

According to figures recently released by the National Treasury Agency, compensation payments made by the State for personal injury, property damage and clinical negligence claims rose by 46 per cent in 2010.
The amount of compensation paid out by the State last year totalled in excess of 93.2 million Euros; however the total estimated liability on outstanding claims is fast approaching 1 billion Euros.
The massive leap has been attributed to an increase in civil actions for malpractice against hospitals and medical practitioners, which for the first time has become the responsibility of the State Claims Agency rather than the Health Service Executive’s.
Speaking last September, Minister for Health Mary Harney commented on the growing trend of clinical negligence claims, stating that the failure to protect patient safety in hospitals was having economic as well as human consequences. During 2010, the State Claims Agency resolved 1,690 claims, but at the end of the year still had 4,114 claims outstanding.


Latest Estimates For Child Deaths in State Care Revealed

The Irish Times has revealed new information about the number of children and young adults that died while in the care of the Health Services Executive (HSE) between January 2000 and April 2010, which is now estimated at 199. The 199 figure includes both children in State care or known to social services providers.

Some 109 children died of unnatural causes, which included suicide, drug overdoses, unlawful killings, and traffic accidents. The remaining 90 children died of natural causes, including health problems.

An independent review group has been set up to further investigate the circumstances of the deaths of the children in the care of the state. It is not yet known if the HSE is potentially liable for mistakes that may have been made in the provision of care the the children.

While the focus of news stories and investigations has been the number of child deaths, there has not yet been much focus on the potentially larger problem of injuries sustained by children in care.


Crime Victims to Receive 4 Million Euro Compensation in 2010

The Department of Justice has estimated that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal will award €4.2 million to victims of crime in 2010. The total payments over the past five years are likely to reach €22 million by the end of 2010.

The 2009 statistics show that there were 111 payments in 2009, with the highest award being €867,000. The tribunal makes awards to about half of all applicants.


Settlement of 100,000 Euro For Nightclub Incident

Glen Turner of Navan, County Meath has won €100,000 damages in settlement of a High Court case against the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan, County Meath for alleged assault by doormen at a nightclub at the hotel.

Mister Turner has claimed that a pre-existing epilepsy condition has “significantly worsened” since he was allegedly assaulted by two doormen. The incident occurred in September 2001.

The High Court case was taken against Quinn Hotels Ltd, with registered offices at Hotel Kilmore, Dublin Road, County Cavan, which operates the Ardboyne’s Hotel. The full details of the settlement were not revealed in court, although legal council for Mr Turner told Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill that the terms included a payment of €100,000.


Worker Awarded 7,000 Euro for “Inappropriate” Remarks

The Employment Appeals Tribunal has awarded Pamela McCann of Bellaghy, County Sligo, compensation of over €7,000  “entirely inappropriate” remarks from a male superior at Homebase House and Garden Centre in Santry, Dublin.

Ms McCann had worked for15 months at Homebase before resigning in October 2008, which the court ruled the the resigation was in fact a constructive dismissal becase of the stress caused by the store manager’s sexual comments and fear of being fired. Ms McCann spoke to another manager about the inappropriate behaviour the situation deteriored further and the store manager began ignoring her.
In another incicdent, it was claimed that the store manager’s response to Ms McCann’s pregnancy was to ask her what she “intended to do about it”, implying abortion. It was also claimed that a member of the human resources staff was “quite shocked” by the store manager’s remarks about McCann’s clothes.
The court ruled that  comments were “unwelcome and could reasonably be regarded as sexually offensive, humiliating or intimidating”.
A lesson for any employees is that Ms McCann won her case because she reported the inappropriate behaviour to another manager and discussed it with human resources staff. So the problems were “on the record”. It is also very useful to keep accurate contemporary written notes about every incident, including the exact wording of any comments and the names of any witnesses. It is also appropriate in certain circumstances to rely on CCTV in the workplace (for example, where there is inapporpriate physical contact). However, it is inappopropriate to make illicit recordings of telephone conversations or to take illicit video recordings. In the case of cyber-bullying, any emails or texts or instant messages should be kept as evidence.
The basic steps you should take are:

  • Keep accurate records about all incidents
  • Do not respond in any way to provocation
  • Speak to a solicitor
  • Report incidents to human resources or more senior management

Employers and their employees have duties by law that your solicitor will explain to you.


Class Action Suits Proposed by European Commission

The European Commission is relaunching the debate about class action suits (also called collective redress) for faulty product in the European Union with the objective of developing common standards across the 27 member countries. Three EU commissioners, justice commissioner Viviane Reding, competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia and consumer commissioner John Dalli, have drafted a paper on the subject and will be launching public consultations in November.

The Financial TImes has today revealed some of the issues covered in the briefing paper, including making class actions cheaper than individual claims, financing class action suits, consensual resolutions through mediation, enforcing judgements throughout the EU, and avoiding abusive litigation.

A previous attempt to introduce EU-wide rules failed due to strong lobbying by business groups worried about potential costs.

As with other EU countries, current legislation in Ireland makes it very difficult to pursue class action suits.


Ombudsman Condems HSE for Delays, Awards Compensation

The Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has blamed carelessness in the Health Service Executive (HSE)  eight-year delay in processing an elderly woman’s application for a public long-term care bed. The elderly woman’s GP first applied without success for a public long-term care bed for her in 1995. It took additional applications and the intervention of the Ombudsman to obtain a public bed in 2004 just before she passed away. In the meantime, the woman was housed in a private nursing home with the fees paid in part by her state pension and a means-tested nursing-home subvention and the balance paid by her son.  Her son built up debts to pay for his mother’s private nursing home.

The Ombudsman found that it was simple carelessness that caused the original application to be ignored, rather than anything more serious. The Ombudsman ruled that be compensation of €56,500 should be paid.

The HSE has explained that human error led to the delays and has resolved the particular case.


Gardai Receive Compensation Payments of 12 Million Euro in 2009

Controller and Auditor General has revealed that payments made under the Garda Siochana Compensation Acts for injury compensation claims amounted to 12 million euro in 2009. The highest award to a Garda was €132,000.  Civilians injuried in accidents on Garda premises are entitled to receive compensation under the act and six civilians shared compensation of €48,000. The Controller and Auditor General has also reported that compensation and legal costs of over €3m were paid out in 2009 for accidents involving grada squad cars. The payments were made for 280 cases that resulted from 532 accidents, with payments ranging from €2 to €250,000.  Prisoners and civilians visiting prisons are entitled to compensation. Prison staff injured while on duty received €682,000, with the highest payment being €73,000. Some 83 prisoners received compensation for injuries while an seemingly very high number of civilians – 26 – were hurt while visiting jails and claimed compensation.


Pregnant Worker Wins 100,000 Euro for Discrimination

Denise Blatt has won her discrimination case against the Comfort Inn Parnell Square hotel owned by  Palmece Ltd where she was a general manager prior to being selected for redundancy. It was alleged in court that the Ms Blatt was treated less favourably during two pregnanacies over a period of a year and eight months and then was selected for redundancy because she was pregnant. It was claimed Blatt was awarded pay rises and bonuses prior to informing her company that she was pregnant, after which she received a formal letter pointing out flaws in her work. Ms Blatt developed high blood pressure during her pregnancy and blamed her work environment.

Palmece Ltd was not represented in court and the evidence was not contested.

Ms Blatt was awarded €50,000 in compensation for discrimination and €50,000 in compensation for victimisation.


Interesting New Statistics from Injuries Board Ireland

New statistics from the Injuries Board Ireland show women accounted for 72 per cent of the 1,443 personal liability awards in 2009 that were settled for the amount recommended by the Injuries Board Ireland.

However, when presenting the compensation award statistics, there is no explanation whatsoever regarding the cases that were not settled through the Injuries Board Ireland process but went to the High Court, where the awards can be significantly higher or were settled by negotiation with an insurance company.

The true statistics do not in fact exist, since the vast majority of injury compensation claims that go to court are settled privately.   Presenting a subset of the overall statistics without qualifying explanations is somewhat misleading.

The data only covers awards that were proposed by the Injuries Board Ireland and then accepted by both parties – and therefore does not include certain categories of injury compensation (cases where the defendant does not admit full liability, medical negligence claims, complicated cases – perhaps involving contributory negligence, defamation cases, phycological injuries like PTSD,  etc).

What the published statistics do not reveal the reasons why women represent such as high percentage of the settlements made by the Injuries Board Ireland.

Are women more likely to accept the Injuries Board Ireland recommendation whereas men are more likely to want a higher compensation amount? It seems highly likely that this is in fact the case.

It should be remembered that the statistics only represent a small subset of the injury compensation claims in Ireland because they are only award recommendations by the Injuries Board Ireland that have been accepted by both parties.

The category of personal injury known as “slips, trips, and falls” accounted for two thirds of all public liability awards. But perhaps this seemingly very high percentage is because they are precisely the type of small, straightforward personal injury claim that the Injuries Board Ireland is able to handle efficiently. The comparatively fast processing times for these types of simple claim is one of key benefits of the Injuries Board Ireland.

Just over half of the incidents occurred in privately owned buildings such as pubs or cinemas and just under a quarter of the awards were made against public authorities. However, the statistics might perhaps simply mean that public authorities are just more likely to accept the recommendations of the Injuries Board Ireland, whereas private building owners are more likely to defend compensation claims. The only way of determining the true percentage of claims against public authorities is additional statistical information.

The Injuries Board Ireland statistics show that 57 per cent of compensation claims were for amounts of less than €20,000.  However, this is certainly a self-serving statistic aimed at reducing the injury award expectations of the general public. In fact, the Injuries Board Ireland seems keen to promote its role in reducing the costs of injury compensation claims, stating that it is “delivering €100m in savings each year”.  If the figure is great, it is great news for insurance companies and also beneficial to the general public, but comes at the cost of victims receiving lower amounts of compensation.


Waxing Burn Victim Settles 38,000 Euro Case with Beauty Salon

Suzanne Kelly of Clonsilla, County Dublin has settled her €38,000 personal injury claim with So Belle beauty salon in the Ashleigh Centre, Castleknock, County Dublin over severe rash burns to her armpits and groin following an unsuccessful waxing.

Ms. Kelly claimed that she suffered a painful rash and swelling in the affected areas.

The beauty salon entered a full defence in the Circuit Civil Court but made an undisclosed settlement.


Claimants Avoiding Injuries Board Process For Higher Compensation in Court

An article by Patricia McDonagh in today’s Irish Independent shows that the general public has clearly completely lost faith in the Injuries Board Ireland.

There were 7,099 personal injury cases filed in the High Court and 6,999 cases filed in the Circuit Court in 2009.   This compares to 746 cases filed in the High Court in 2005, the year after the Injuries Board Ireland was set up.  So while the Injuries Board process was initially effective in persuading people to forgo their right to litigation and legal council, people soon realised that they would get higher compensation by hiring a solicitor and at least threatening to go to court (very few cases actually arrive in court).   The trend toward avoiding settling cases through the Injuries Board process and going to court is accelerating. It is believed that up to 90% of all claimants now use a solicitor.

According to McDonagh “New figures show people are going to court because they can receive higher compensation awards and get their legal costs if they are successful.”

The Irish Independent quotes senior counsel David Nolan’s explanation of why so many people are not accepting the compensation amounts recommended by the Injuries Board: “People realise that the value of their case is better being determined by a court rather than a civil service quagmire like InjuriesBoard.ie.”

It is unfair to call the injuries Board a ‘quagmire’ because in fact, it has actually speeded up the personal injury claims process in Ireland by stopping insurance companies from dragging out the process over as many years as possible.


Crime Victim Wins 25,000 Euro Compensation for Emotional Stress

Caroloine Grainger of Portmarnock, County Dublin, has been awarded €25,000 damages against a burglar who terrorised her while robbing her possessions in her bedroom in March 2004.

Ms Grainger said that she thought she was going to be killed when two men pulled her blankets over her head. Simon O’Connor of Donnycarney, Dublin, later pleaded guilty to burglary in the Circuit Criminal Court and was jailed for five years.

Ms Grainger testified that she still suffered nightmares and flashback and now slept behind locked doors.  Medical evidence was given that Ms Grainger had suffered mild to severe post-traumatic stress syndrome.  The case was heard by Mr Justice Matthew Deery and the compensation award was made for emotional stress, assault, and trespass.


Bride Awarded 42,000 Euro for Wedding Disruption

Joan Noone has been awarded €42,000 in damages against the Setanta House Hotel, Celbridge, County Kildare, after her reception was disrupted by a collapsed ceiling. Luckily there were no serious injuries.

Ms. Noone from Maynooth, County Kildare, was very upset by the incident and cancelled her honeymoon. She was in shock for some days after the accident and claimed she suffered post traumatic stress afterwards.

The case was heard by Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, who assessed for damages as the hotel admitted liability.
The groom, Michael Noone, and five wedding guests, are also due to have compensation cases heard soon. It is not known how many of the 129 wedding guests have started compensation proceedings against the hotel.