Law firm wins top award for record negligence damages case

The law firm which won a landmark medical negligence case, securing a record €14m in damages for a young boy injured at birth, has been recognised with a top award for its work on the historic case.

Ernest J Cantillon Solicitors, based in Cork City, won the ‘Litigation Case of The Year’ award at this year’s Irish Law Awards in recognition of the firm’s achievement in the Gill Russell versus the Health Service Executive case.

The settlement was the largest personal injury settlement ever paid out in the State.

Gill, an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy from Aghada in Co Cork, suffered catastrophic injuries at the time of his birth in July 2006 due to negligence at the Erinville Hospital in Cork City.

He cannot walk, suffers from dyskinetic cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.

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The medical negligence team at Ernest J Cantillon had initially brought the case before the High Court in October 2012, at which point liability was admitted and an interim settlement of €1.4m was paid.

Last year, the legal team returned to the High Court seeking damages to provide for Gill’s care for the rest of his life.

Monies for future care and expenses have usually been awarded by the courts on the assumption that the monies will gain interest when invested of 3% per annum and there is an built-in discount to allow for that.

But Gill’s legal team argued last December that the real rate of return — the amount the damages presumed to be earned over a plaintiff’s lifetime — should be reduced.

In a landmark judgement, the court reduced the real rate of return to 1% which had the effect of producing an award for damages of €13m.

Had the 3% rate been used it is estimated that the special damages awarded would have amounted to some €9m.

The award set a precedent for other similar cases.

The firm’s managing partner, Ernest Cantillon, said they were humbled to receive the award from their colleagues in the profession.

The firm, which employs 39 people, fought off stiff competition from big law firms outside all over the country.

“It is such an honour to be recognised by our peers and it will have pride of place in our office in Cork,” he said.

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