State Claims Agency sees 15% rise in legal fees in 2018 amid sharp rise in award payouts

State Claims Agency sees 15% rise in legal fees in 2018 amid sharp rise in award payouts

One barrister last year received just over €1m (incl VAT) in fees from the State Claims Agency (SCA).

Figures published by the SCA show that Declan Buckley SC received €1.037m in fees last year from the agency.

The €1m received in fees by Mr Buckley is a gross figure that includes VAT and Professional Services Withholding Tax.

It was part of €31m paid out to barristers and solicitors acting on behalf of the SCA last year - a 15% increase on the €27m paid out in 2017.

The SCA manages all personal injury and property claims against the State and State authorities.

However, almost 70% of the €31m in legal fees at €21.7m last year relate to work by SCA hired lawyers on medical negligence cases - a 39% increase on the €15.63m paid out in legal fees to SCA lawyers for medical cases in 2017.

Mr Buckley received his fees in 100 separate instalments from the SCA last year. The top six paid barristers working for the SCA shared fees of €4.26m last year.

Five other barristers received between €500,000 and €1m and they include Patrick Hanratty SC who represented the HSE in the recent High Court case taken by Co. Limerick woman, Ruth Morrissey who is terminally ill with cervical cancer.

The figures show that Mr Hanratty received fees of €690,376 in 22 separate payments last year.

The barrister to receive the second-highest amount is Emily Egan SC who received €944,755 in fees.

The figures show that Brian Foley BL received fees of €555,222 in 59 separate payments while Conor Halpin SC received SCA fees of €521,681 with Luan O Braonain SC receiving fees of €519,083.

Separate figures provided by the SCA show that Hayes Solicitors last year received €4.3m in fees with Mason Hayes Curran solicitors receiving fees of €3.5m.

Ronan Daly Jermyn solicitors receiving fees of €2.6m from the SCA.

A spokesman for the SCA stated that rates for lawyers have been set individually following competitive tender processes that reduced rates by more than 25%.

Last year, the SCA paid out an additional €41m in plaintiffs’ legal costs in relation to clinical claims and paid out €179.9m in awards and settlements compared to €87.9m in medical negligence case awards in 2017.

The sharp rise in award payouts was due to a significant increase in the number of high-value catastrophic injury cases being resolved in 2018 where cases can take a number of years to be resolved.

Last year, the SCA received 3,219 new claims and resolved 2,623 claims across all sectors. The SCA’s total estimated outstanding liability across all areas at the end of 2018 was €3.75bn - up 18% on the corresponding end of year figure of €2.66bn.


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